Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Relationship Stories

A Cornish Inheritance by Terri Nixon

Today I’m delighted to host the blog tour for A Cornish Inheritance by Terri Nixon as part of the Random Things Tours.

Synopsis

Welcome to Fox Bay Hotel, where family fortunes rise and fall.

1920, Bristol. Helen Fox is happily married to the love of her life: charming, former playboy Harry. With their three children, glamorous lifestyle and extravagant parties, they have the perfect life. But after a tragic motorcycle accident, nothing will ever be the same…

Helen is forced to leave their home and move to the Fox family’s hotel on the Cornish coast – where she discovers her perfect life has been based on a lie.
Now Helen must find a way to build a new life for herself and her children with the help of a vivacious new friend, Leah Marshall.
But when the future of the hotel is threatened, Helen discovers that she hasn’t left her past behind after all, and unless she takes drastic action, she’s going to lose everything all over again…

A Cornish Inheritance Cover

My thoughts

Helen is blissfully married as one half of the ‘heavenly twins’, but things are often not as they seem and she soon discovers that her husband has not been entirely honest with her.  Still it’s nothing that they can’t work through… they have each other and their three young children after all.  Then tragedy hits and suddenly Helen and the children are alone and forced to return to the Fox family’s hotel.  At least they aren’t destitute.  Surely the money from their half of the hotel still means they have the hope of a new home, a fresh start.  Yet more secrets begin to emerge and soon Helen must make some very difficult decisions as her trust is shaken along with the hope of any security she thought the Hotel might bring.

This is a good, traditional family saga with twists and turns and secrets being unearthed left, right and centre.  There is much drama and poor Helen is faced with quite a time of it.  Filled with rich, interesting characters ( as well as some dark, shady ones along the way) you can’t help but be drawn back to the 1920’s, a time where blessing s where counted and the loss of a loved one was felt even more harshly after surviving the war.  Family secrets, deceit and wrong doing mixed with the hope of redemption make this an intriguing read.  A delightful read that I imagine fans of Terri Nixon and the genre will adore.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and the lovely people at Piatkus books for my review copy.

About the author

Terri Nixon Author PicTerri was born in Plymouth. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to the village featured in Jamaica Inn — North Hill — where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one’s ever offered to pay her for doing those.

Since publishing in paperback for the first time in 2002, Terri has appeared in both print and online fiction collections, and is proud to have contributed to the Shirley Jackson award-nominated hardback collection: Bound for Evil, by Dead Letter Press.
As a Hybrid author, her first commercially published novel was Maid of Oaklands Manor, published by Piatkus Entice. Terri’s self-published Mythic Fiction series set in Cornwall, The Lynher Mill Chronicles, is now complete and available in paperback and e-book.

Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon. She is represented by the Kate Nash Literary Agency. She now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Plymouth University, where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don’t possess pens.
You can follow Terri on Twitter at @TerriNixon
Website : http://www.terrinixon.com/

Cornish Inheritance BT Poster

 

Adult Fiction, Ghost Stories, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

There is something rather wonderful about reading ghost stories during the time between Halloween and the New Year, and oh how I do like a good creepy read. I love nothing more than curling up with an atmospheric, spine-chilling novel whilst the wind howls outside and the lights flicker inside. It therefore gives me great pleasure to join in with the Halloween takeover for the very wonderful, very creepy The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

Synopsis

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

In the classic tradition of The Woman in Black, Anita Frank weaves a spell-binding debut of family tragedy, loss and redemption.

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My thoughts

I have had this book sitting on on my tbr pile for a few weeks now but I was due be away from home for a few nights, sleeping alone, and I just knew I would never have been able to sleep whilst reading it. How right I was! Once back in th safety of my own bed opened the first page and was immediately swept away. This is a delicously creepy, gripping novel, one that whispered into my thoughts even when I wasn’t reading it. At times I literally found myself holding my breath as I read.

Set in 1917 in the gentle english countryside at a time when the country is shrouded in the darkness of the First World War. So many mourn the loss of loved ones and Stella Marcham is still reeling from the death of her beloved fiancee Gerald. In an effort to distract herself from her sadness she travels to visit her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at Greyswick, an imposing country mansion where Madeleine’s husband spent his childhood. When Stella arrives at the house Madeleine is withdrawn and not herself. There is something deeply unsettling about the house that Stella can’t quite put her finger on. Strange things start to happen and these, alongside the ghostly noises and sobbing in the night, lead Stella to try and uncover the truth hidden in Greyswick’s past and the family who live there. There is much unexplained about this life and what happens next and sometimes secrets are best left undisturbed…just like the ghosts waiting in the shadows of the attic.

I can hardly believe that this is a debut. It’s wonderfully constructed and filled with all the ingredients of a nail biting gothic thriller. The atmosphere Anita creates is tangible. I could feel the chill of the room, hear the footsteps on the stair. I was completely absorbed and terrified as I disappeared into the pages. I absolutely adored it and having recently read Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black and Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger can absolutely say that Anita Frank is way up there with those brilliant authors of such calibre. Thoroughly recommended. This is sure to be a great success and would make the perfect read for the long, winter evenings ahead of us.

Thank you so much to the lovely team at HQstories for inviting me to read and review this novel as part of the amazing Halloween take over.

About the author

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A farmer’s daughter from Shropshire, Anita studied English and American History at the University of East Anglia before moving to London to work in media analysis and communications.

She left paid employment to become a stay-at-home mum when she had the first of her three children. Sadly, Anita‘s youngest child developed a rare form of epilepsy in infancy which has left him severely mentally disabled and she is now his full-time-carer, but she has begun snatching what time she can to pursue her lifelong ambition of writing historical fiction.

Anita now lives in Berkshire with her husband, her two lovely girls and her gorgeous boy, a fluffy cat with an attitude, and a bonkers Welsh Springer Spaniel.

You can follow Anita on Twitter at @Ajes74

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction, Literary

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the wonderful novel by Iona Grey, The Glittering Hour.

Synopsis

1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them. Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself.

When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.
But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed.

A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.

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My thoughts

Expertly crafted with a dual time setting The Glittering Hour firstly begins in early 1926, in the days soon after the Great War when the horrors of the past sit in the shadows and life is for living again. Then we move on ten years later and it is 1936, nine-year-old Alice is sent to stay with her cold and distant grandparents at Blackwood Park, the large country estate where her mother grew up.

Alice is missing her mother, Selina, desperately in the unwelcoming house. Her only comfort can found in the letters that her mother sends her. Through these letters a treasure hunt begins in which Selina tells Alice exactly where she comes from and so unfolds a story of love, passion and heartbreak.

This novel is a multi-faceted joy. It takes us back to a time in history where the world changed forever. The years after the First World War when loss was still raw and the ghosts of those who never came home are all around. A new age was dawning with the hedonistic lifestyle of the Bright Young Things rebelling against the suppression of the past.

I adored the treasure hunt theme flowing through. The anticipation of secrets being unearthed between mother and daughter. Selina and Alice have a wonderful relationship and Iona has written them perfectly. So much love, it is hard not to feel the pain of their separation.

Back in 1926, Lawrence, the struggling artist, is a wonderful expression of the time, his desire to create art through photography indicative of the changes occurring in the early 20th Century. He begins to capture moments and feelings. The now traditional method of processing printed images as they would magically appear, holding moments frozen in time. He and Selina are worlds apart in so many way and yet find comfort from the pain of the past together. How can their love survive in this world that is changing in so many ways but still held tight to the past?

Yet still nearly a decade later Alice is still feeling the ties and expectations of her time but finds allies in the old house with Polly and the gardener, the lovely Mr Patterson. But what secrets will she unearth as she follows her mother’s treasure hunt? What skeletons will be brought out into the open?

The Glittering Hour is a beautifully written, deeply moving piece of historical fiction. This is an absolutely stunning novel in so many ways. It is a story about love, holding tight to what’s dear and of living with the freedom to be true to ourselves.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to the lovely people at Simon and Schuster for my review copy. This was a truly wonderful read. Pure escapism. 🙂

About the author

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Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.

You can follow her on Twitter at @iona_grey.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Thriller

Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle

Today marks the end of a uniquely special month of blog tours celebrating the publication of the IWM Wartime Classics collection and I’m thrilled to be taking part to chat about this amazing collection and especially, Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle.

How do people cope with the experience of being at war? Those on enemy soil and those at home? For many it was a period left unspoken, the memories too difficult to share. Then there are others who found another creative outlet to release those memories. Surely sometimes talking about such difficult experiences may be easier when giving them to a fictional character. These four books from the Wartime classics collection show us just what can be created when stories are written from personal experience. These authentic, engrossing reads give you a unique insight into life at this time. There is something very personal about the stories and as I read them I feel that each author has captured the reality of the Second World War brilliantly.

Perfect for lovers of historical fiction but also scholars and students who may be trying to make sense of how the world was through the eyes of those who really lived it.

Eight Hours From England by Anthony Quayle

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Synopsis

Autumn 1943. Realising that his feeling for his sweetheart are not reciprocated, Major John Overton accepts a posting behind enemy lines in Nazi-Occupied Albania. Arriving to find the situation in disarray, he attempts to overcome geographical challenges and political intrigues to set up a new camp in the mountains overlooking the Adriatic.

As he struggles to complete his mission amidst a chaotic backdrop, Overton is left to ruminate on loyalty, comradeship and his own future.

Based on Anthony Quayle’s own wartime experience with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), this new edition of a 1945 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds new light on the fascinating true events that inspired its author.

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My thoughts

I remember lazy Sunday afternoons as a child.  Sunday roast and family time falling asleep in front of the TV watching a Bond or old war movie.  No doubt The Guns of Navarone would have been one such film but I don’t really recall.  As a young child I would have just thought of it as a piece of fiction,  I certainly wouldn’t have thought that the actors involved had actually served in the war.  Of course there was every possibility. In fact as I’ve grown older and learnt so much more about that time and the films and books that was born from it I realise that a great many of the actors probably drew on personal experience when acting.  Anthony Quayle was one such actor.

This novel, according to Alan Jeffreys in the introduction, was so well received when it was originally published back in 1945 that the author did consider turning from his acting career and becoming a writer.  He decided that he didn’t have enough experience for further endeavour and so continued with his wonderful acting career, which was I’m sure to great relief of the acting world.  He was incredibly well respected and within this novel we can see that his talents extended to the written word.  As with the other three novels in this collection, Eight Hours From England gives us a close up and personal view of the Second World War.  This time we are travelling to Nazi-Occupied Albania and the life as part of the SOE.

The introduction as with the previous titles is informative and enticing.  Alan Jeffreys informs us that this novel is so close to Anthony’s own experience that it’s almost a memoir.  This novel, just like the others, have given me an even greater insight into this time in history.  Yet it’s also an excellent novel, a thrilling read and one that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

This is an absolutely brilliant series. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of these blog tours. I am so grateful for the IWM for bringing these stories back into print for a new generation to enjoy and to make sure they are not forgotten. I have purchased the entire series for my school library for both staff and older students to enjoy and my personal copies will remain firmly amongst my own collection.

Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in these tours and also to the Imperial War Museum for my review copies.

About the author

This is information taken from Eight Hours From England.

img_0246Anthony Quayle (1913-1989) was a successful British actor and theatre director, well known for his roles in classic plays on the stage as well as his film career. After appearing in music hall he joined the Old Vic in 1932, touring in various productions before the outbreak of the Second World War.

During the war Quayle served in the Royal Artillery, and later joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whence he was deployed to Albania, Eight Hours from England, is a fictionalised account of Quayle’s time behind enemy lines there. He also wrote a later novel, On Such a Night, about his time with the British Army in Gibraltar.

After the war Quayle returned to the stage. From 1948 to 1956 he was the director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, laying the foundations for the creation of the Royal Shakespeare Company and helping to establish Stratford-on-Avon as a major centre of British theatre.

Quayle’s screen career began on 1938 and he appeared in many classic films such as Ice Cold in Alex (1958), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Quayle received both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his role in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), and his towering stage career took him around the world to both popular and critical acclaim. He was knighted in 1985.

About IWM

IWM (Imperial War Museums) tells the story of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since the First World War.

Our unique collections, made up of the everyday and the exceptional, reveal stories of people, places, ideas and events. Using these, we tell vivid personal stories and create powerful physical experiences across our five museums that reflect the realities of war as both a destructive and creative force. We challenge people to look at conflict from different perspectives, enriching their understanding of the causes, course and consequences of war and its impact on people’s lives.

IWM’s five branches which attract over 2.5 million visitors each year are IWM London, IWM’s flagship branch that recently transformed with new, permanent and free First World War Galleries alongside new displays across the iconic Atrium to mark the Centenary of the First World War; IWM North, housed in an iconic award-winning building designed by Daniel Libeskind; IWM Duxford, a world renowned aviation museum and Britain’s best preserved wartime airfield; Churchill War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; and the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast.

Want to find out more about the books in this series?  Check out my other articles for Plenty Under the Counter and Trial by Battle

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Plenty Under The Counter by Kathleen Hewitt

Today I’m so delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt. This novel is one of four war time classics being brought to new readers by the Imperial War Museum.

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Synopsis

London, 1942, Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on a convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house.  With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder.  Drawn into a world of mystery and double-dealing, he soon realises that there is more than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive.  Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?

Inspired by Kathleen Hewitt’s own experience of wartime London, this new edition of a 1943 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds light on the fascinating true events that so influenced its author.

My thoughts

I do love a murder mystery and so was delighted when I discovered one of the four titles released in this project was one.  Often war on the frontline is covered in stories but this looks at the war from the Homefront.  Whilst men were away fighting life carried on whilst we hear plenty about the wartime spirit there were also plenty that took advantage of this difficult time.  Whilst many sheltered from the bombings others used the blackouts and misfortune of others to their own end.  This story shows that darker side, the side of a society pushed to their limits with the fear of the nightly raids, rationing and separation from their loved ones, and the criminals who take advantage of them.

Right from the get go the story drags you in with the discovery of a body.  David Heron is our protagonist and he becomes determined to help solve the crime.  The thing I liked most about this novel is that it perfectly sets the scene for battle worn London.  This wonderful series written by those who lived and breathed it captures the feeling and atmosphere of the time.  Kathleen Hewitt is a talented writer and I’m so delighted to have been able to read her work thanks to the IWM.  I read with interest the introduction written by Alan Jeffreys and I find her a fascinating woman.  I would definitely love to know more about her, not just her work but life in London.  We do get a glimpse of this in her writing.  Her plot is intriguing and her characters engaging.  Humour is splattered throughout and yet there is the undertone of the hardship that the war brought so many of the people simply trying to survive it.  We now know that the war eventually ended but at this time they had no idea how it would turn out.  This is a gripping murder mystery that perfectly captures a slice of British history and brings the realities of war on the Homefront to life.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to the IWM for my review copy.  I have already brought a copy all four of these titles for our school library and I look forward to sharing them with students and staff.

About the author

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Kathleen Hewitt (1893-1980) was a British author who wrote more than twenty novels in her lifetime, mainly in the mystery and thriller genre.  During the Second World War she lived in Marylebone, and belonged to the The Olde Ham Bone, a bohemian club in Soho, as well as frequenting the Ivy, the Cafe Royal and the Pen Club.  Hewitt enjoyed friendships with many literary and artistic figures of the day including Olga Lehman and the poet Roy Campbell.

 

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Here is a little more about the project:

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM have launched a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.
Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories.

These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

War Time Classics

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction, Literary

Trial By Battle by David Piper

Today I’m so delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Trial by Battle by David Piper. This novel is one of four war time classics being brought to new readers by the Imperial War Museum.

Here is a little more about the project:

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.
Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories.

These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

War Time Classics

Trial By Battle Cover Image
All four titles will be the subject of blog tours throughout the month (check out #wartimeclassics) but today I am going to be chatting about Trial By Battle by David Piper.

About the author

David Piper

David Piper (1918-1990) was best known as an art historian and museum director. He served with the Indian Army during the Second World War, and was a Japanese prisoner of war for three years from 1942-1945. Piper based Trial by Battle on his wartime experiences, publishing it under the pseudonym Peter Towry in 1959. In later life he achieved widespread acclaim as the director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Ashmolean Museum.

Normally I would place the author information at the end of my piece but today I feel it is incredibly relevant to have a little snapshot into the author – this is the blurb on the back of the book early on. This is an incredible novel. One that not only captures time and place perfectly but one that deserves to be read by a whole new generation of readers. Lest we forget.

Synopsis

October 1941. Twenty-one-year-old Alan Mart is posted to India and taken under the wing of the dogmatic, overbearing Acting-Captain Sam Holl. Following the Japanese advance on Singapore, the men are deployed to Malaya. What follows is a quietly shattering and searingly authentic depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare and the indiscriminate nature of conflict.

My thoughts…

Some books can be written entirely from imagination. This is after all quite often how we all experience a great deal of what goes on in the world. A skilled writer will not necessarily have to experienced what they are writing about for it to be good – in my humble opinion. But, I have to say that with Trial By Battle, Piper has captured a moment in history so brilliantly that he, at times, moved me to tears. The situation, the location, the raw hideousness that is war all shine through in his writing. There is no fluffy filling, no unnecessary scenes. Each moment takes you straight on this journey with young Alan Mart. To know that the novel is born from experience makes it all the more compelling and heart-breaking. Piper was an excellent writer and his skill is evident within the pages of this short novel. Only 160 pages long but what he has created is a story one can never forget. I wonder if the writing was therapeutic for him. Was it difficult to write or a relief to put the words to paper? However he felt we can only be grateful that he put pen to paper so we can gain a better understanding of the horror of conflict and just what people went through.

The introduction by Alan Jeffreys is succinct, interesting and a super accompaniment to the novel. It highlights the quality of Piper’s writing and experience, giving you additional pause for thought.

I am so excited about this project and have been delighted to have my small part in sharing it. This is the first novel I have read in the Wartime Classics collection but I’m looking forward to continuing my part in the blog tours with Eight Hours From England and Plenty Under The Counter later this month. All four novels in the collection are published by the Imperial War Museum.

Trial by Battle IWM BT Poster

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Relationship Stories, Romance, Summer Reads

The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander

Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander.

Synopsis

Sardinia, 1968.

Eleven-year-old Alba Fresu’s brother, and her father, Bruno, are abducted by criminals who mistake Bruno for a rich man. After a gruelling journey through the countryside, the two are eventually released – but the experience leaves Alba shaken and unable to readjust to normal life.

Accompanying her mother to cleaning jobs, Alba visits the villa of an eccentric Signora and touches the keys of a piano for the first time. The instrument’s spell is immediate. During secret lessons, forbidden by her mother, Alba is at last able to express emotions too powerful for words alone. Ignoring her parents’ wishes, she accepts a scholarship to the Rome conservatoire. There she immerses herself in a vibrant world of art and a passionate affair.

But her path will lead her to a crossroads, and Alba will have to decide how to reconcile her talent with her longing for love and her family…

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My thoughts…

This is an incredibly beautifully written novel. The story is engrossing and Sara’s use of language, imagery and her characterisation create a deeply moving and engrossing story. Alba’s life on Sardinia is far from easy. Restricted by family traditions and expectations, along with the trauma and guilt that weighs her down after the abduction of her father and brother, her home life is far from happy. Those closest to her see her only as a difficult, silent child who brings grief and trouble to the family. Yet Signora Elias, a local woman who her mother cleans for, spots a talent burning bright within Alba. This kind, generous old woman takes her under her wing and teaches her the piano. Alba finally finds a way to express the torrent of emotions within and releases a unique talent from within. So many times I felt the injustice of the treatment towards Alba that watching her flourish through her music was a complete joy.

I met author, Sara Alexander at Destination HQ earlier this summer. Listening to her briefly talk about this book I was immediately intrigued to know more. She seemed such a charismatic and vibrant person and spoke of both the novel and her love of music and food (touching briefly on her produce grown on her own allotment). I could tell that she was incredibly proud of her Sardinian ancestry and I felt that such a colourful person would produce an interesting and animated story. During the evening we bonded briefly over our shared love of allotment life and I was excited to receive a copy of both this and her previous novel The Secret Legacy. I’m so glad that I did because she writes beautifully and all that charisma, colour, vibrancy and knowledge seeps into the story to create an absolutely stunning novel. She reminded me a little of Victoria Hislop, although I try to avoid author comparisons, Sara’s ability to bring Sardinia alive did bring Victoria to mind. I love the way she uses music so wonderfully and her articulation and sentence structure is superb. So many of my senses were engaged whilst reading. She conjures a piece of music to your mind with words alone, the atmosphere and emotion are all there. The same goes when she talks about food, such an important part of family life and skilfully used to bring moments with the story to life.

As for Alba’s journey well of course it isn’t easy but she is a wonderful character to follow and her story is one with joy as well as sadness. Be swept away to Italy with this gorgeous novel, it is an absolute delight from start to finish.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at HQ Stories for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for the review copy. It is wonderful and I now look forward to reading Sara’s previous novels, Under A Sardinian Sky and The Secret legacy.

As well as being a incredibly talented novelist, Sara is also and actress and I have to say my son was VERY IMPRESSED that I chatted with an actress who had appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Every time we watch it (and we do quite a lot) I remind him ‘I met her!’ 🙂

About the author

Sara Alexander

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Sara Alexander attended Hamstead School, went on to graduate from the University of Bristol, with a BA hons in Theatre, Film & TV. She followed on to complete her postgraduate diploma in acting from Drama Studio London. She has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, including roles in much-loved productions such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Doctor Who, and Franco Zeffirelli’s Sparrow. She is based in London.

Find out more about Sara by visiting her website at http://www.saraalexander.net

You can follow Sara on Twitter at @AuthorSaraAlex

You can find Sara on Instagram at @sarajalexander