Welcome to my book-blog. I spend as much time as I can within the pages of a book and hope you'll get some reading inspiration from my library. Catch me on Instagram as well as books.tea.and.me – I'm always looking for recommendations!
Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.
What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?
Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .
Inspired by real events
I loved the shifting of the book’s narrative between the men’s perspective in 1972 and the women in 1992; so let me explain… the base of this story comes from the actual disappearance of three men in the 1900s from a lighthouse situated in the Outer Hebrides. Stonex takes this mystery and weaves her own vision of events into ‘The Lamplighters’ and she’s created an excellent read with a driven narrative. We begin to piece together the parts of the whole story via interviews with those left behind and the narrative of the past.
I love books set by the sea; the isolated and tempestuous setting of this story is really atmospheric and bleak, and it also offers the psychological journey of being in such an environment.
Overall, I found this quite a haunting read, and I kept thinking about it after I closed the final page. With themes of love, loss, grief and hidden truths and I would happily recommend this book.
Five hundred Italian prisoners of war arrive to fortify these wild and desolate islands.
Orphaned sisters Dorothy and Constance volunteer to nurse the wounded. But while beautiful, damaged Constance remains wary of the men, Dot finds herself increasingly drawn to Cesare, a young man fighting on the wrong side and broken by the horrors of battle. Secretly, passionately, they fall in love.
When a tragic mistake from Con’s past returns to haunt them, Dot must make a choice:
Protect her sister no matter the costs, or save the man who has captured her heart?
An absolutely spell weaving novel by Caroline Lea. I loved her first novel ‘The Glass Woman’ and was delighted to find ‘The Metal Heart’ providing an absolutely absorbing read to.
The island setting of Orkney was a delight and this really enriched the story of love and courage. If you follow the author’s Instagram page there are pictures of the island, these really bring a sense of reality to the story.
Beautiful and satisfying to read; this book comes highly recommended from me.
Since losing her great love to the Queen of the Sainted Isles, Arden must fulfil an impossible promise before she can return home – she must complete the dangerous Rite that will return Jonah’s spirit to the abyssal Court of the Deepwater King.
This sets her off on a journey far out at sea to find believers of the old religion on the oil-slick and mysterious islands beyond the horizon. But such a responsibility will not come without sacrifice, for the Deepwater folk who worship the King require the most desperate payments the soul, and with one man Arden may have to pay the greatest price of all…
Astonishingly original, with world-building to rival the depths of the ocean, McKenna has drawn a rich tale of longing and courage – penning the perfect oceanic steampunk fantasy.
You’ll need to read the first book in the series, ‘Monstrous Heart’ before reading ‘Deepwater King’ as it begins shortly after the first book ends. I enjoyed ‘Monstrous Heart’ and the developing relationship between Arden and Jonah up to the dramatic and disturbing climax of the opening story in this, I believe, trilogy. This was a huge part of the enjoyment of the first book and sadly, for me, it was missing from ‘Deepwater King’, however saying that, there was plenty of dark drama and action to hook you into the narrative.
There’s great worldbuilding, like book one, and the setting is a huge part of the books enjoyment – I really enjoy Steampunk vibes and loved this element. There are some great characters, both principal and minor – I did feel Arden lost the drive in this book at times (middle book syndrome?) – I hope the Arden/Jonah relationship drama will build up again to the level of ‘Monstrous Heart’ in the final book of the series. The story does builds to a dramatic crescendo and well, that ending – I need the next book!
I do enjoy this series and look forward to its conclusion.
DS Benjamin Chambers and DC Adam Winter are hunting a twisted serial killer who recreates famous works of art using the bodies of his victims. But after Chambers almost loses his life, the case goes cold – the killer lying dormant, his collection unfinished.
Jordan Marshall has excelled within the Met Police, driven by a loss that defined her teenage years. She obtains new evidence, convincing both Chambers and Winter to revisit the case. However, this new investigation reawakens their killer, the team in desperate pursuit of a monster hell-bent on finishing what he started at any cost.
I loved the RAGDOLL series, each book was contrasting in style and I really engaged with this variation and creativity. Daniel Coles books are always fun to read, despite taking you into dark places, minds and events. The thrillers are carefully plotted with both dramatic and creative deaths and crimes – so be warned, this isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s a great and slightly unusual character driven team working on the central investigation: DS Ben Chambers, PC Adam Winters and the modern newbie DC Jordan Marshall.
The crime investigation initially begins in 1989 shifting to the reopening in 2006 and I enjoyed the changes of both the investigation, the development and changes of the 1989 investigators. A part of Cole’s books that add to their charm, even though it’s rather macabre at times, is the humour, which I’ve also really enjoyed in previous Cole books – so please expect a chuckle along the way, if dark humour works for you?
With the theme of art, specifically Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ sculpture opening this crime mystery, Cole has created an intelligent cold case crime at the heart of this thriller. The reader follows the team as they hunt the perpetrator of the sick crimes that haunt them, to find closure on the case and to seek justice. A gruesome crime thriller based on recreating famous works of art in the most macabre way.
Some great fantasy reads to check out from Titan Books – keep scrolling to find out more…
In an ancient matriarchal world of magic, gods and warriors, the last girl – unbeknownst to the five queendoms – has just been born. As time marches on, the scribes of Bastian find no answers in their history books. The farmers of Sestia sacrifice their crops to the gods. Paxim, the empire of trade and dealings, has nothing to barter but boys and more boys. Arcan magic has no spells to remedy the Drought of Girls. And finally, Scorpica, where every woman is a fighter, their commander, their queen, has no more warriors to train. The lines of these once-great empires soon to die.
After centuries of peace, the ensuing struggle for dominance – and heirs – will bring the five queendoms to the eve of all-out war.
But the mysterious curse is linked to one of the last-born children, an orphaned all-magic girl, who is unaware she has a claim to the Arcan throne…
‘Scorpica’ is the opening novel in ‘The Five Queendoms’ series by G.K. Macallister, and as you’d expect from a series starter there’s a lot of world building and set up. It’s a complex fantasy world, where the matriarch’s rule; I’ve seen it referred to as the female ‘Game of Thrones’.
The world is ruled by Queendoms, each having their own perspective on males and their roles. The female roles are vast and although the narrative pace is detailed and leisurely it held my attention. For those, seeking a more adventurous and pacey fantasy read, this may not be for you. Although, saying that, it is the opening and requires a lot of establishment – hold on in there!
‘Scorpica’ is heavy in POVs so it does take focus to track characters and relationships in each Queendom. With themes of violence, gender, politics, magic and female relationships this is a detailed and thought provoking read.
A fantasy novel of conflict, power and a world in crisis.
When a letter from her uncle Henrick arrives on Bryn Roth’s eighteenth birthday, summoning her back to Bastian, Bryn is eager to prove herself and finally take her place in her long-lost family.
Henrik has plans for Bryn, but she must win everyone’s trust if she wants to hold any power in the delicate architecture of the family. It doesn’t take long for her to see that the Roths are entangled in shadows. Despite their growing influence in upscale Bastian, their hands are still in the kind of dirty business that got Bryn’s parents killed years ago. With a forbidden romance to contend with and dangerous work ahead, the cost of being accepted into the Roths may be more than Bryn can pay.
Set in the world of FABLE, (Young’s duology ‘Fable’ and ‘Namesake’) a new, smart and sassy protagonist is rejoined with her lost and detached family, setting the tone of the adventure. But there’s trouble ahead, with scheming, untruths, cons and pawns.
An fantasy adventure with a lead pitched against a ruthless adversary with a dash of romance to complete the journey. A quick, easy read for some wonderful escapism.
Jack Corman is failing at life.
Jobless, jaded and on the “wrong” side of thirty, he’s facing the threat of eviction from his London flat while reeling from the sudden death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, a film Jack loved as a child, idolising its fox-like hero Dune.
But The Shadow Glass flopped on release, deemed too scary for kids and too weird for adults, and Bob became a laughing stock, losing himself to booze and self-pity. Now, the film represents everything Jack hated about his father, and he lives with the fear that he’ll end up a failure just like him.
In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying home, a place creaking with movie memorabilia and painful memories. Then, during a freak thunderstorm, the puppets in the attic start talking. Tipped into a desperate real-world quest to save London from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with excitable fanboy Toby and spiky studio executive Amelia to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy while conjuring the hero within––and igniting a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do his father proud.
A new arrival to the TITAN bookshelf and something very different to build my eclectic reading style – I look forward to checking this one out and some more book chat 🙂
I’m delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for ‘The Physician’s Daughter’ by Martha Conway. What an eye-catching cover design, evoking the time period of the novel and the central relationship inside. My thanks to Zaffre for the gifted review copy and to Tracy for the tour invite. Do keep scrolling for some bookish chat.
It is 1865, the American Civil War has just ended, and 18-year old Vita Tenney is determined to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a country doctor like her father. But when her father tells her she must get married instead, Vita explores every means of escape – and finds one in the person of war veteran Jacob Culhane. Damaged by what he’s seen in battle and with all his family gone, Jacob is seeking investors for a fledgling business. Then he meets Vita – and together they hatch a plan that should satisfy both their desires. Months later, Vita seemingly has everything she ever wanted. But alone in a big city and haunted by the mistakes of her past, she wonders if the life she always thought she wanted was too good to be true. When love starts to compete with ambition, what will come out on top?
From the author of The Floating Theatre, The Physician’s Daughter is the story of two people trying to make their way in a world that is struggling to escape its past.
Each chapter of ‘The Physician’s Daughter’ is headed with a quotation which highlights the irony and ridiculousness of male thinking during the 19th Century, for example, the opening chapter begins with:
‘Hysteria is often excited in women by indigestion’ (On Diseases Peculiar to Women)
Dr Hugh Lenox, 1860
I looked forward to these chapter quotations and found them, quite frankly, gob smacking! From findings that ‘flat-chested females were unable to produce a well-developed infant’, to ‘the majority of women (happily for them) are not much troubled by sexual feeling of any kind’ Dr William Acton, 1888. Certainly, highlighting the view of the patriarchy and the medical profession of the period. Conway sets the scene nicely and introduces our protagonist Vita Tenney who is determined for the world to change as she seeks a position as a trainee doctor. The novel is set at the end of the American Civil War and the aftereffect of war is a consistent theme running through the story; this is also told through the perspective of Jacob Culhane, a previous soldier and prisoner of war. Vita’s father completely rejects the idea of his daughter becoming a doctor and following in his footsteps; the complex nature of grief is explored through her father and despite his harshness, there was a real sense of sadness at how loss affected him and by default the entire family. He states that Vita must marry instead, however Vita has other plans she’s determined to follow.
Vita and Jacob’s lives converge as they both attempt to control their futures despite hardships and adversary. I liked both characters, although at times Vita needed to open her eyes a little where Jacob was concerned; I did feel he forgave far too readily for her ‘betrayal’. I really felt for Jacob as he battled his ‘shakes’ from the war in a time where post-traumatic stress was not understood or treated well.
The story splits for a time and follows Vita and Jacob’s separate journeys until they find each other again; I thought the pace and engagement really picked up at this stage and I found it hard to put the book down.
With themes of grief, trauma, love, war, and the quest to follow your heart despite the odds, this book comes highly recommended from me. For readers seeking an engaging historical relationship drama with heart, then do pick up Conway’s ‘The Physician’s Daughter’.
THE BLOG TOUR
Martha Conway has been nominated for an Edgar Award and won the North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She now lives in San Francisco with her family.
The season is about to begin – and there’s not a minute to lose…
Kitty Talbot needs a fortune.
Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. This is 1818 after all, and only men have the privilege of seeking their own riches.
With just twelve weeks until Kitty and her sisters are made homeless, launching herself into London society is the only avenue open to her. And Kitty must use every ounce of cunning and ingenuity she possesses to climb the ranks.
The only one to see through her plans is the worldly Lord Radcliffe and he is determined to thwart her at any cost.
Can Kitty secure a fortune and save her sisters from poverty? There is not a day to lose and no one – not even a lord – will stand in her way…
I really enjoyed ‘A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting’ by Sophie Irwin and, as others have commented, it has a modern day Georgette Heyer vibe to it; it’s also an historical romance without the ‘heat’ that comes with many. What you get is an often charming, enemies to lovers story and great escapism into a fictionalised past, as our central protagonist, Kitty Talbot, finds herself forced to marry for wealth to save her family from potential destitution. There were a few times that this felt mercenary and quite annoying, but on the flip side it was an arrangement most of the wealthy opted into at the time; Kitty was simply taking advantage of these types of transactions on the marriage mart.
It’s a tale of misunderstanding, family, personal desires in the face of social restrictions and, well, love and fun. It wrapped up quite suddenly for me, and I personally would have liked a little more, perhaps an epilogue, but that’s just me.
Recommended to historical romance readers and people looking for some escapism from today’s world.
A Raven and Fisher Mystery: Book 3
Edinburgh, 1850. This city will bleed you dry.
Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman.
Back in the townhouse of Dr James Simpson, Sarah Fisher has set her sights on learning to practise medicine. Almost everyone seems intent on dissuading her from this ambition, but when word reaches her that a woman has recently obtained a medical degree despite her gender, Sarah decides to seek her out.
Raven’s efforts to prove his former adversary’s innocence are failing and he desperately needs Sarah’s help. Putting their feelings for one another aside, their investigations take them to both extremes of Edinburgh’s social divide, where they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.
I love this book series and would highly recommend it to people who enjoy historical thrillers that mix real-life characters with the fictional world. Atmospheric, dark, meticulously plotted and executed with panache! I really do enjoy these books and the third in the series is no exception. ‘A Corruption of Blood’ can be read as a standalone I’m sure, but to understand the principal characters and their relationships, I’d highly recommend you start at the beginning.
A brilliant setting is the key to these books, the city of Edinburgh really comes as life: it’s like time-travelling. I love the well researched medical information, it really elevates the book and doesn’t bog it down at all. I also love the relationship between Will and Sarah and it certainly doesn’t conform to the readers’ expectations.
Highly recommended – these are also stunning looking books!
One for sorrow, two for joy Edinburgh is gripped by the greatest terror it has ever known: a lone bomber is targeting victims across the city, and no one is safe.
Three for a girl, four for a boy In their jobs, DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach deal with death every day. But when it becomes clear that every bomb is a trap designed to kill them too, the possibility of facing it themselves starts to feel all too real.
Five for silver, six for gold With the body count rising daily and the bomber’s methods becoming ever more horrifying, Ava and Luc must race to find out who is behind the attacks – or pay the ultimate price…
Seven for a secret never to be told…
Another excellent addition to the DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner series by Helen Fields. I’ve enjoyed this series since I read the first book ‘Perfect Remains’ back in 2017 and it was great to be back with the Major Investigation Team; this time the case becomes very personal. As with all series, it’s ideal to start at the beginning to follow the character and relationships progression. Saying that, the case and its escalation work independently and provides a high paced, thrilling read. Turner is the character focus for this book in the series; she’s an intense, committed officer who’s going through grief and crisis during the book whilst tackling a traumatic and violent serial bomber. Interspersed with the main narrative are back story events and we slowly begin to piece together the developments into one plotline. Along the way, Fields pushes red herrings and twists skillfully to keep the intrigue and tension building. There’s also some very emotional moments and those who are following the series will be moved and upset by these… and, wow what a shock ending! Highly recommended.
When bloody civil war breaks out between the King and Parliament, families and communities across England are riven by different allegiances.
A rare few choose neutrality.
One such is Jayne Swift, a Dorset physician from a Royalist family, who offers her services to both sides in the conflict. Through her dedication to treating the sick and wounded, regardless of belief, Jayne becomes a witness to the brutality of war and the devastation it wreaks.
Yet her recurring companion at every event is a man she should despise because he embraces civil war as the means to an end. She knows him as William Harrier, but is ignorant about every other aspect of his life. His past is a mystery and his future uncertain.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable read; it’s a journey through a turbulent time in English history and I really enjoyed the well-researched historical backdrop. There are also some great characters to feast upon, specifically Jane Swift, calm, resilient and a woman ahead of her time. There’s also William Harrier, complex and mysterious, whose developing relationship with Swift is a joy to follow – there are many ups and downs along the road. The setting of Civil War is dangerous and consistently challenging for both our leads and many others as deceit and hated spill into communities. I also particularly enjoyed the (well researched) medical side to the story and Swift’s calm and dedicated control of her skills and determination to deliver in extremely trying situations.
Highly recommended historical read with themes of love, loss and sacrifice.
After eleven years in school in England, Charlotte Lawrence returns to Sundar, the tea plantation owned by her family, and finds an empty house. She learns that her beloved father died a couple of days earlier and that he left her his estate. She learns also that it was his wish that she marry Andrew McAllister, the good-looking younger son from a neighbouring plantation.
Unwilling to commit to a wedding for which she doesn’t feel ready, Charlotte pleads with Dan Fitzgerald, the assistant manager of Sundar, to teach her how to run the plantation while she gets to know Andrew. Although reluctant as he knew that a woman would never be accepted as manager by the local merchants and workers, Dan agrees.
Charlotte’s chaperone on the journey from England, Ada Eastman, who during the long voyage, has become a friend, has journeyed to Darjeeling to marry Harry Banning, the owner of a neighbouring tea garden.
When Ada marries Harry, she’s determined to be a loyal and faithful wife. And to be a good friend to Charlotte. And nothing, but nothing, was going to stand in the way of that.
I love the atmosphere and setting of the ‘Darjeeling Inheritance’ – the writer encapsulates the sights and smells of the country brilliantly; I felt a huge sense of transportation and escapism when I settled down to read. I love drinking tea, so this part of the novel also interested me.
There’s a mix of characters, some likeable and others not so! With themes of arrogance, romance, the female, patriarchy and guilt this is a great book for a summer read.
I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to others.
FATE PULLED THEM APART BUT NOT BEFORE THEY MADE A PROMISE.
TEN CHRISTMASES LATER, WILL THEIR WISH COME TRUE? . . .
As Norah battles through the bustling December crowds, she hears the notes of a song that transports her back to the most romantic week of her life.
After meeting on a blissful holiday, but knowing they had to part, a boy named Andrew made her a promise:
If they are both single on Christmas Eve in ten years’ time, they will meet under the clock on Grafton Street, Dublin.
Norah has no idea if he will remember, but she has nothing to lose.
So, hoping for a Christmas miracle, she heads to Dublin. To that clock. And, maybe, to Andrew.
But it wouldn’t be Christmas without a few surprises . . .
Ah, what a charming Winter read for all those romantics out there. ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ is a heartwarming little book that comforts and entertains delightfully; a perfect light-hearted seasonal read. It’s a story of timings, Fate, friendships, family relationships and music.
The book jumps about from place to place as our characters live and grow, from Italy to Dublin, America and London. I enjoyed following the character of Noah, who stood out for me. I loved how the story was transported to the reader via music and the memories unraveled the past relationship for the reader.
It’s a book that utilises the romance and seasonal pleasures of Christmas time and I really have a yearning to visit Dublin now and experience the hustle, bustle and sounds of the streets, music and communities.
I would recommend this book for readers looking for a romantic, light Christmas read.
A debut thriller for fans of Lucy Foley and Liz Moore, Dark Things I Adore is a stunning Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.
Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.
1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.
2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.
Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.
A searing psychological thriller of trauma, dark academia, complicity, and revenge, Dark Things I Adore unravels the realities behind campfire legends―the horrors that happen in the dark, the girls who become cautionary tales, and the guilty who go unpunished. Until now.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2018
Audra’s voice floats to me like the scent of roses across a dark, abandoned garden; first sensed, then followed. “We’re stopping just up here.” It takes me a moment to come to the words, to apprehend their meaning. I’ve been very far away, fallen into the deep crevasses of my own thoughts and memories and preoccupations, clouded things, and now she is throwing a bright, silken rope down, beckoning me to climb back up to her out of the murk.
I blink a few times out at the blur of scenery going by my window—it is so terribly vibrant. We are moving so very fast. The farther into Maine we’ve gotten, the tenser my muscles have become. I feel their gentle protests as I come back to myself in the passenger seat of her little Volvo wagon; she’s driving us onward and onward, farther north, further wild.
“Ground control to Major Tom—are you there, Major Tom?” Her voice is supple: deep as a river bend, scratchy as an alto sax, able to convey everything or nothing at all depending on her mood.
“Yes, reporting for duty. And stopping for a moment sounds good,” I say, adjusting myself in my seat.
“You can even stay in the car,” she says quickly, as if not wanting to inconvenience me. “I really just have to use the bathroom.”
“No problem. Might get out to stretch.” I rub my hands on the thighs of my jeans and yawn, looking back out the window.
Towering balsams, firs, and pines in varying depths of green all shimmy like ‘20s flappers in the stiff breeze, birches wrapped like mummies in what looks to be peeling papyrus lean this way and that, grand oaks, maples, and chestnuts muscle in on one another, flared in their autumn robes; a motley conflagration under the dazzling mid-October sun. We are in the middle of a beautiful nowhere, digging into sprawling hinterlands, into territories of wild earth.
The rolling, winding roads away from Bangor took us through towns with names like Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Shirley, all with their own quaint, beautifully cinematic set dressing. It was like each was curated from grange hall flea markets and movie sets rife with small-town Americana. Stoic stone war memorials. American flags. Whitewashed, chipping town hall buildings from other centuries. Church bell towers in the actual process of tolling, gonging, calling. To me, the sound was ominous in a remote sort of way, unnameable.
I glance over at Audra again, consider her, and wonder if my other students have found out about this little trip. They’ll be upset to hear I’ve undertaken this effort to work with and see Audra. They know I would never do the same for them. The admirers and the sycophants hate Audra. They deride her, mock her, belittle her and her work behind her back. But they’re mediocre, deluded self consolers. She is better than them in almost every way. And they know it.
But I understand her. Because I am her. Or was. Twentyplus years ago, just starting out, full of ideas and energy and hunger and pure, unbridled talent. Dedicated to the work. I can cultivate her. I can make her greater than she ever could have been on her own. None of the others afford me that; not a one.
When Audra first proposed this one-on-one visit, I’d been pleasantly surprised, even a little triumphant. But things couldn’t help but flicker back into memory like sunlight breaking through clouds. Images. Emotions. Colors: cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, prism violet, cerulean blue. Just snippets, catches of history. I’d lived in Maine for two years, as a matter of fact—but as a much younger man. Barely more than a boy. It was decades ago; many bottles of wine and lovers and lines of cocaine and gallery showings and awards and lectures and semesters ago. So much has happened. So much has grown in the space between me and that capricious boy so far down the tunnel of time that he feels almost entirely obscured from me, insignificant to the man and artist I’ve become. I didn’t tell Audra any of that because my experience here all those years ago holds realities she might consider a little ugly. I didn’t want to ruin our fun. I didn’t want to ruin the potential such a trip might hold for us. I still don’t. So I’m treating this adventure like a clean slate, made just for me and her.
“It’s another mile or two until we stop,” Audra tells me as her eyes track a big pickup roaring by. We pass the mouth of a private dirt driveway. Posted: NO TRESPASSING NO HUNTING, a sign at its edge says. The dirt drive cuts a winding path up a steep embankment, through trees and gone, a scar in the hillside. Halfway up the densely forested slope, I see whorls of gray smoke lifting into the crystalline sapphire sky. I gaze over at Audra again, thinking of the desolation, the beauty, the shocking potential of pure color.
“I can see you here,” I tell her, nodding. “I see you in this place.”
“Yes. I thought you were mad to not go abroad to complete your thesis. Absolutely mad. Every young artist—every good artist—needs difference. It pushes you forward, opens up the imagination to go out there and see the world!” She smiles faintly, sagely as she listens to me, to the bite-size version of this speech of mine she’s heard many times before.
“I know what my paintings need. They don’t need Istanbul. They need”—she takes a deep breath and then gestures around us, breathing out a sigh of pleasure—“this. And all of the money from those departmental awards will keep me comfortable right here.”
“Seeing it now, like this, my guess is you’re right. It suits you. It suits your work.”
“And wait until you see what I’ve been up to since my last update. Any doubts will be cleared away.” There is a devilish little twinkle in her eye. Reminds me of myself right before unveiling a masterwork to a hungry audience. The anticipation. The excitement.
“You sound confident.”
“I am confident,” she replies, sure as granite, light as a summer breeze. As ever, I think, not without some prickliness. But the sudden, joyful flash of her teeth and the uptick of her lips into a smile, the way her hair flares in the sun plunges me into wild, raw infatuation, that just-born kind of infatuation you feel at the beginning of every one of your own very best love stories. The sensation is of a rose reblooming, an egg re-cracking, a sweet, delicious pressure released. It has been this way with me since I met her. This inability to look away from her and what she creates. Even her sheer, bald confidence—I admit I’m the same way. Unwavering about my art. But where I am hotheaded, Audra is all coolness, steady and withholding.
The coolness, the distancing ends this weekend, I’m sure. Why else invite me all the way the hell up here?
When well-to-do Hester learns of her sister Mercy’s death at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, she travels to Southwell to find out how her sister ended up at such a place.
Haunted by her sister’s ghost, Hester sets out to uncover the truth, when the official story reported by the workhouse master proves to be untrue. Mercy was pregnant – both her and the baby are said to be dead of cholera, but the workhouse hasn’t had an outbreak for years.
Hester discovers a strange trend in the workhouse of children going missing. One woman tells her about the Pale Lady, a ghostly figure that steals babies in the night. Is this lady a myth or is something more sinister afoot at the Southwell poorhouse?
As Hester investigates, she uncovers a conspiracy, one that someone is determined to keep a secret, no matter the cost…
I really enjoy books like ‘The Shadowing’, firstly because of the historical setting (we have a sinister workhouse to unpick); secondly, the gothic atmosphere, and thirdly the author is clearly a great storyteller.
Our protagonist is Hester, who is introduced to the reader whilst suffering in the throes of a nightmare wrapped around by mensural pain; we soon learn she is living under the patriarchy of her father. What’s also soon clear, is that Hester has visions of the departed, of shadows and spirits: the dead. Her long-long sister Mercy appears and Hester knows that bad news is approaching. The story develops quickly and the family receive a letter that Mercy has indeed died at a place called the Southwell Union Workhouse, and she has died a pauper.
This book’s central mystery involves what actually happened to Mercy, how she ended up in a workhouse and dying a pauper. Hester becomes obsessed with finding out the truth and this is the hook of the narrative. I really enjoyed the historical setting coming alive, as Hester battles relentlessly to find out the truth and put her sister’s shadow to rest.
There’s a great, creepy atmosphere at Southwell, and I was reminded of Daphine Du Maurier’s world of shady characters, foreboding inns, untrustworthy characters, and ghostly, gothic undertones. It’s a world where, Hester, our strong – albeit a little naïve lead character fights to stand up for her sister and those trying to stop her. I also enjoyed the addition of Matthew, a grouchy, dismissive landlord of a coaching inn, who develops and become a more central part of the narrative; he also provides the dash of romance, and I do mean dash.
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Shadowing’ and would highly recommend it.