‘The Duke of Distraction’ by Darcy Burke

This is not my usual read, but I saw it on NetGalley and thought I’d have a look as I’ve been branching out to different genres recently. This one’s an historical romance and I hadn’t realised it was actually book 12 in a series by Darcy Burke.

I was initially confused, as there were a lot of names mentioned in the opening pages, however previous readers of this series wouldn’t be and I imagine would like to see previous characters again. It wasn’t a problem though, as I quickly grasped the basics of who’s who.

‘The Duke of Distraction’ is set in 1818 and centres around Felix Havers, the Earl of Ware, who has spent the majority of his life hiding his emotions behind a jolly facade of entertaining others. He becomes embroiled in helping his best friend’s sister to find a husband. This is Sarah Colton, who also hides a secret; she’s intent on opening a millinery shop and supporting herself. This independent wish is stopped by her parents desire for her to many appropriately.

After tragic events, Sarah is helped by Felix to find a husband she could love but, unsurprisingly, their mutual attraction begins to cause problems.

I think these books tend to follow a typical structure, and I guess it’s what readers of this genre like and I can’t deny it’s entertaining. I chuckled several times! I also needed to fan myself as I wasn’t prepared for the detail of the amorous moments, and there was quite a few! Lol!

All together, it was an easy read, well written, with characters suitable and believable within this genre. Good fun romantic escapism. Maybe not a genre I’ll read regularly but I can certainly appreciate the appeal!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me to read an arc for an honest review.

Love is in the air!

Over thirty years ago I watched ‘The Princess Bride’, I remember the grandad coming to read to his sick grandson and suddenly being thrust into the high fantasy world of William Goldman’s cult classic film and book. I didn’t realise for years about the actual book, so this discovery was a lovely surprise for me.

Gosh, why is this story so captivating? For me, it’s the richness and diversity of characters and the clever wit and plotting of their adventures. At the centre of this is the glorious Westley, from his first ‘As You Wish’ to the mysterious ‘man in black’ to the Dread Pirate Roberts and back to Westley again in his quest to be worthy of and with the maiden Buttercup. And what an adventure!

It’s the themes at the heart of this book that have captured both its viewers and readers: revenge, evil, miracles, friendships, adventure, thirst for war, sadism, necromancy (well, sort of) and of course, true love. From the formidable Cliffs of Insanity to the Fire Swamp with the dangerous presence of the ROUS to the final wedding and battle of wits.

A cult classic, timeless adventure and perfect for Valentines. ❤️

‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden

This is the first book in the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden and I adore it.

The book begins just before our central character Vasya is born and a huge chunk of the story follows her growth to young adulthood. On Arden’s website there is a prologue which didn’t make the final edits before publication; this was fabulous to find after finishing the trilogy and I enjoyed it knowing the outcome of the first meeting of Vasya’s fated mother. ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ reads like an adult fairy-tale and its prose is lush; you really feel the isolation of the communities and their yearly battle with the unforgiving winter. The novel is set in a medieval Russia and is steeped in folklore – another central and otherworldly figure amidst all this is the Winter King, Morozko AKA The Frost Demon. He is a constant underscore throughout the book beginning with a delightful winter’s tale around the fireside, warning those listening of the dangers of coming across him in the winter world. From myth to ‘man’; it is his relationship with Vasya – the child born to the Vladimirovich family that is at the heart of this story.

Throughout the book, we are introduced to other creatures that can only been seen by a few (those with the second sight) and it’s these that Vasya begins different friendships and relationships with; in turn they become a part of developing who she is, and who she will become, over the course of the three books. I loved these bizarre little sprites and guardians of nature popping up all over the place some grumpy, some mischievous or others keen to help.

Vasya is a fabulous character, spirited and adventurous. It’s a delight to follow her journey as she resists conforming to the life of a female at the time, to be married off, to keep a house and to raise children. Her desire to live, to travel and be who she wants to be is fabulous; this girl has a strong will and her adventures provide the drive throughout the main narrative, through laughter, hurt, joy, injustice, cruelty, anguish and ultimately love, of her choice no matter the difficulties. And there are certainly many challenging obstacles to face throughout this trilogy! My goodness!

There’s a multitude of themes and one dominant one for me is religion and how this can become dangerous; there are characters who follow different choices about their beliefs and there are stark warnings within these pages for extreme beliefs and their corruptions. The character of Father Konstantin being particularly well written by Arden; his journey is vast and we feel so much towards him during these books.

As you can tell, I just loved this book; it is so detailed and well written; it takes a while for Vasya to grow and the story to really develop but I loved that about it, as I really came to understand and love Arden’s wintry world and those who live within it. Of course, I purchased the second two books immediately and devoured them…but more about that later.

A highly recommended read for fantasy, fairy-tales (of the darker variety) and folklore. Read it!

‘Perfect Crime’ by Helen Fields

‘Your darkest moment is your most vulnerable’

A well-crafted, tense narrative hook opens the fifth book in the D.I Luc Callanach series. It’s great to be back with the Police Scotland where an unusual set of repulsive crimes is appearing. As always Fields’ plotting is intelligent and she weaves the investigation of the crime around the men and women who are tasked to solve it. The central relationship of Luc and Ava is taking a much more personal turn and there’s a lot of focus on it, but I really enjoyed this development and the further insight into their lives and problems.
There’s a lot of backstory in this, so I’d definitely recommend reading from the start to understand Luc’s past and how it links strongly into this story-line. All the books in this series are great reads!
I thoroughly enjoyed this fifth book; the unusual method of crime and the psychology of the killer.
Can’t wait for book six!

Thank you Avon Books UK and NetGalley for the arc and the chance to review this book before publication. Highly recommended for all crime fiction fans.

‘The Stone Circle’ by Elly Griffiths

‘The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly’

This is the 11th Dr. Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson book and I really enjoyed it. I’ve read all the previous books so it was great to join them again and also to experience the landscape of the salt marshes, as always a character themselves.
This book brings back the story from Griffiths’ first book ‘The Crossing Places’ which I really liked; it allows us dedicated Dr. Ruth Galloway readers a return to those events and also bringing in some new faces.
The central plot is woven well and held my attention throughout. With these books it’s the through-line story for the central characters that keeps us turning the pages and the complex relationship between Ruth and Harry.
Some funny moments and some poignant ones for the reader and I’d certainly recommend this book, but I’d definitely start with book one and watch the characters develop over the years. A cracking series of crime novels.
Thank you so much Quercus and Netgalley for the chance to read and review this book!

‘No Way Out’ by Cara Hunter

D.I. Adam Fawley Book 3

More bumping and twisting for the reader than a Helter Skelter ride!
This is Cara Hunter’s third novel in the D.I. Adam Fawley series of novels and it doesn’t disappoint.
Remaining consistent with the format of her previous novels, Hunter’s writing weaves back and forth between a first and third person narrative. The main story is interjected with mixed forms of police report transcripts, social media, news and forensic reports.
The central mystery surrounds the devastating aftermath of a house fire; there are some harrowing events involving the family’s young children and D.I. Fawley and his team investigate the events leading up to the fire. Hunter uses engaging flashbacks of the days leading up to the incident and the reader is able to shadow the lives of the central victims and their journey, gaining insight into the events leading up to the tragedy. As always, Hunter enjoys a good twist in the tale and this third novel fails to disappoint upon its conclusion.

‘Where the Truth Lies’ by M.J.Lee

‘The case was closed. Until people started dying…’

An engaging premise for this new police procedural: a DI who has returned to work after being diagnosed with cancer, which is now in remission, and is sent on secondment to the coroner’s office. However, the likeable, DI Tom Ridpath finds his new case brings him back to a previous serial killer conviction which is now in doubt. At times this police thriller is fast-paced and thoroughly engaging; there’s some really interesting characters emerging and the working relationship with Ridpath and his Coroner boss is one that could really develop. It’s well plotted and uses forensic and investigative procedures to drive the plot forward to a tense but satisfactory conclusion. I’d look forward to reading a sequel.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this arc.

‘Gallowstree Lane’ by Kate London

‘Please don’t let me die. Please don’t…’

At the heart of this book is a current topical issue of gang culture within our youths and the devastating impact of knife crime.
This is the third book to feature DI Sarah Collins and DC Lizzie Griffiths and despite not having read the previous novels it’s still an engaging and coherent read. I would be interested in the previous two novels to explore the character development to this point, as I’m sure it would have enriched the reading of ‘Gallowstree Lane’.
The title of this book is engaging and mysterious, and fits the plot; the narrative is told via split perspectives of the two police officers aforementioned, also D.I. Kieran Shaw and a young boy caught up in the brutal world of gang crime; it’s this narrative that’s really engaging and how over the course of the book your perception of him really changes.
I certainly enjoyed this book and would recommend it – I’d definitely look out for the first two before though as I think I would have got much more out of it having more understanding of the relationships, but I haven’t judged it overall with those thoughts..
Thank you to both NetGalley and the publishers for a chance to review this upcoming novel.

‘Once Upon a River’ by Diane Setterfield

‘A dark midwinter night…’

I enjoyed this book. Loved the atmospheric setting at the inn and of solstice. This is a real character driven story and there’s quite a few to get to know. This book has a grown-up fairy-tale feel to it.
The writer takes her time with the story-telling and it is fairly long, so it’s something you can savour and take your time with and enjoy the intelligently descriptive prose. It has a little bit of several genres: magic, folklore, fantasy, supernatural, the Gothic, and historical fiction. I enjoy story-telling and listening to stories being told and this book reminded me of that; I loved that the importance of telling stories seems to be honoured in this book.
Overall, an enjoyable read encompassing a variety of themes from love and loss to treachery.

‘The Wolf and the Watchman’ by Niklas Natt och Dag

It is 1793…’

This is a complex mystery novel set in Stockholm in the 18th Century after the gruesome discovery of a body in a swamp. It has quite a gothic feel to it, which I really like. The writing is rich and holds your attention without leaving the plot behind, it’s not a quick read but it’s richness makes it worth it.
The story is split into narrative parts with different character focuses before finally coming together towards the end. It is shocking at times and certainly gruesome, if you’re squeamish for that sort of thing.
I really enjoyed the gritty descriptions of the city, its bleakness and poverty.
The two men drawn into the investigation are a lawyer, Cecil Winge, and the watchman, Mickell Cardell, who discovered the body and this works really well, drawing obligation and justice themes into the story-telling. Another section of the book is about a man called Blix, who was hired by the murderer and who writes his story to his sister, Anna.
It’s a hard read, and stomach turning at times as evil will be, and at times I didn’t want to keep reading, but felt compelled to.