Book Review: An Affair by the Sea (The Siren’s Retreat Quartet #2) by Erica Ridley

About the Book:

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What happens when a wallflower’s extremely make-believe fake suitor appears in the flesh just in time to ruin all her spinsterly plans?

Orphaned pianist Allegra Brown is a poor relation with nothing much to recommend her, save a minuscule dowry and a very big imagination. She has spent the past several years as governess to her younger cousins, who are now ready for their come out—and want Allegra to marry, too. Specifically, they eagerly await the return of Allegra’s dashing, handsome, swashbuckling, conveniently absent and secretly fictional fiancé, the dread pirate Captain L’Amour.

The only place Mr. John Sharp strikes fear is in the courtroom, where his neat, ordered mind is renowned for winning every case he presents. John loves predictability and longs to be a chef. Unfortunately, every time he puts on an apron, the entire kitchen catches fire. Much like passion burning between him and a certain wildly unpredictable spinster, who seems to have confused him for a dashing, exciting pirate. By fulfilling her fantasies, can his dreams come true…together?

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a few books by Erica Ridley before and so it was natural to request this upcoming book of hers from NetGalley. The story follows Allegra Brown and her younger cousins on an unexpected journey towards love and a fulfilling life. Having lived with her cousins and uncle since she was quite young, Allegra was used to being the one in the shadows, taking care of her cousins but not being noticed. This is until they almost run over Mr. John Sharp, handsome mad with a striking personality who seems to fit the mold of the made up Captain L’Amour.

It was indeed love at first sight for both our protagonists but I enjoyed how the story built up to it and how they find their space with each other. The characters are fun to read about and the setting is picturesque and beautiful to imagine. This is a quick read and is quite entertaining with romance, music, tasty food and a whole lot of fun. The bond that Allegra shares with her cousins is heart-warming and I did enjoy the way they worked to push Allegra and John together.

Overall this is a pleasant read that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a good romantic read!

Book Review: A Letter From Pearl Harbor by Anna Stuart

About the Book:

58758179Ninety-eight-year-old Ginny McAllister’s last wish is for her granddaughter to complete a treasure hunt containing clues to her past. Clues that reveal her life as one of the first female pilots at Pearl Harbor, and a devastating World War Two secret.

1941, Pearl Harbor: On the morning of December 7th, Ginny is flying her little yellow plane above the sparkling seas when she spots an unknown aircraft closing in on her. She recognises the red symbol of the Japanese fighter planes almost too late. Somehow, she manages to land unscathed but the choices she is forced to make in the terrible hours that follow have tragic consequences…

2019, Pearl Harbor: Heartbroken Robyn Harris is reeling from the death of the strong, determined grandmother who raised her. Her only comfort is a letter written in Ginny’s distinctive hand which details a treasure hunt, just like the ones she used to set for her as a little girl. Except this time, the clues are scattered across the beautiful island of Hawaii. Despite her grief, Robyn finds herself intrigued as she follows the trail of letters, revealing the truth about Ginny’s service during the Second World War.

But Robyn’s whole world is turned upside down when she’s faced with a shocking secret which has the power to change the course of her own life…

Inspired by true events, this is a heartbreaking and unforgettable WW2 novel about love, loss and bravery. Perfect for fans of The Alice Network, The Nightingale and Kathryn Hughes.

My Thoughts:

A Letter From Pearl Harbor is a story of love, loss, learning and second chances no matter the situation. The story is narrated to us in two timelines, one in the current day from Robyn’s point of view and the other through letters and the narration in her grandmother’s point of view set in 1941. Robyn and her sister spend one last night with their grandmother who is on her deathbed. At this point, she tells them that she had a terrible secret and has set up a treasure hunt with clues scattered across Hawaii to tell them her story.

The sisters, Robyn and Ashleigh have their own share of demons to deal with. Ashleigh got into an accident which led to her being confined to a wheelchair and stuck without the use of her legs. Robyn moves to Hawaii (perhaps following in her grandmother’s footsteps) and works there, giving up a sports scholarship that she was not ready to devote time to. The sisters have unresolved feelings of resentment towards one another which are tackled through the story.

As we follow the girls on their hunt for clues, we get to know their grandmother better. Her story is set in the time of WWII when the was had still not come to America, but there was a hint. Then one day, Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese and everything changes. In the midst of this bombing, a lot changes for Ginny and thus her priorities change. Determined and full of purpose, she goes to England in the hope that female pilots will be allowed to be a part of the war efforts.

This is a heartbreaking story that brings to us the realities of war, the frustrations, but more importantly how loss affects the people who still live. Additionally, as we discover Ginny’s secrets, we find out just how decisions can affect not just your life but that of the others around you and how the goodness of people can go beyond holding grudges and prove to be healing. Through her story, Robyn and her sister also learn to accept who they are, accept each other and form better bonds with each other and those around them.

Though the war is a part of the plot, the main focus is on the women who train to be pilots and participate in the war efforts. Their determinations, achievements and friendships form the backbone of this story. A truly well-written story, this book is worth reading especially for the messages it contains.

Book Review: The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandore

About the Book:

57034524The glamorous world of a silent film star’s wife abruptly crumbles when she’s forcibly quarantined at the Carville Lepers Home in this page-turning story of courage, resilience, and reinvention set in 1920s Louisiana and Los Angeles. Based on little-known history, this timely book will strike a chord with readers of Fiona Davis, Tracey Lange, and Marie Benedict.

Based on the true story of America’s only leper colony, The Second Life of Mirielle West brings vividly to life the Louisiana institution known as Carville, where thousands of people were stripped of their civil rights, branded as lepers, and forcibly quarantined throughout the entire 20th century.

For Mirielle West, a 1920’s socialite married to a silent film star, the isolation and powerlessness of the Louisiana Leper Home is an unimaginable fall from her intoxicatingly chic life of bootlegged champagne and the star-studded parties of Hollywood’s Golden Age. When a doctor notices a pale patch of skin on her hand, she’s immediately branded a leper and carted hundreds of miles from home to Carville, taking a new name to spare her family and famous husband the shame that accompanies the disease.

At first she hopes her exile will be brief, but those sent to Carville are more prisoners than patients and their disease has no cure. Instead she must find community and purpose within its walls, struggling to redefine her self-worth while fighting an unchosen fate.

As a registered nurse, Amanda Skenandore’s medical background adds layers of detail and authenticity to the experiences of patients and medical professionals at Carville – the isolation, stigma, experimental treatments, and disparate community. A tale of repulsion, resilience, and the Roaring ‘20s, The Second Life of Mirielle West is also the story of a health crisis in America’s past, made all the more poignant by the author’s experiences during another, all-too-recent crisis.

My Thoughts:

The Second Life of Mirielle West is a historical fiction set in the time of the 1920s. Mirielle West is a socialite who only knows the world of comfort, glamor and parties. When a chance diagnosis by her doctor forces her to go away, everything as she knows it changes. The author delicately weaves a story around the Louisiana Leper Home known as Carville which housed so many people who were forcibly quarantined there. 

Mirielle doesn’t know what to expect and is under the impression that she can go home as soon as the misunderstanding is cleared. With each test and a confirmed diagnosis, she has to reconcile herself to her new surroundings and find a place among the people there. This is truly a book of second chances and new beginnings as we follow Mirielle who grows from a spoiled high and mighty socialite to a caring woman who takes up new responsibilities and tries to bring joy to those around her. She is separated from her family, her children and is still dealing with the grief of losing one child. All this has also led to distance with her husband and adds to her emotional turmoil.

Being separated from one’s family is not easy and being isolated is even worse when your family does not want to see you. This was the fate of so many of the people who lived here due to the disease which had no cure. The author has painted a vivid picture bringing to us a well woven story based on so many true accounts. It is heart-breaking to read about the circumstances of the people but the best part is the bonds that are formed. The love, compassion and kinship that arises from shared circumstances leads to found family and a new kind of acceptance in life.

Mirielle and all the other characters in the book are brilliant and worth knowing. This is a story with characters that will stay with you even after finishing the book. The experiences and life of the people, the difficulties they faced and how they were treated is eye opening. Though difficult to read about at times and quite emotional, it is worth the read!

Book Review: The Orphans of Mersea House by Marty Wingate

About the Book:


In the tradition of Kristin Harmel and Elise Hooper, USA Today bestseller Marty Wingate transports us to postwar England’s Suffolk coast in a rich historical drama about love lost—and promise found.

England, 1957. Olive Kersey’s only love never returned from World War II, and now, she’s alone and penniless. Then, the last person she ever expected to see again returns to Southwold. Olive’s childhood friend, Margery Paxton, arrives to claim her inheritance: Mersea House, a stately old home she plans to turn into the town’s only lodging. Olive’s life takes a sunny turn when Margery hires her to run the establishment. But Mersea House holds its own mysteries—and its own dangers.

First, rumors begin to fly when two enigmatic lodgers move in: Hugh Hodson, manager of the town cinema, and Mrs. Abigail Claypool, a recluse and war widow. And then, the completely unexpected: Margery is informed she has a new ward, eleven-year-old Juniper Wyckes, the orphaned daughter of Margery’s first love. Mrs. Lucie Pagett, Children’s Officer at the local authority, informs Margery that Juniper was severely stricken with polio as a child, and makes clear that she could be taken away if her welfare is in jeopardy.

Olive fears Juniper is being bullied at school because of her disability, even as the girl begins to thrive at home. But the past is never far behind for the inhabitants of Mersea House, and looming secrets may destroy these friendships they’ve created.

My Thoughts:

The Orphans of Mersea House follows the lives of Olive, Margery and Juniper, an eleven year old, as they all come together at the Mersea House. Olive and Margery grew up together for a time and lost touch when Margery went to London. Olive has dealt with her fair share of love, loss and choices made in life.

Set in the time post World War II, we come across people who have lost loved ones and who are trying to move on with their lives. The author gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people but with a slightly less focus on the historical aspect. The story is purely one of friendship, love and honoring promises. It’s of strong bonds and family that is made among friends who learn to accept one another for who they really are.

The book has a diverse set of characters, each as different from the other but bringing so much to the table. I adore Hugh and Mrs C. I also liked reading about Billy and the impact he has on Juniper’s life. More than anything, I love how the author has handled a character dealing with the after effects of polio with delicacy providing enough information to us as a reader. In addition, the author has shown us that having polio does not make one any different from the rest, the person/people can lead normal lives just like anyone else (while taking into account the constraints).

I enjoyed reading about Olive and Margery’s friendship and their antics when they were children. Perhaps the best part of the book is the bond that forms between Olive and Juniper (even though she is officially Margery’s ward). Juniper is a delightful child who ends up bringing out the best in everyone around her at Mersea House while carving a place for herself. As secrets have a way of coming out people have a choice with respect to how they react to them and this is also portrayed in this story.

This is a beautifully written story that reminds us what it means to have friends and family, the importance of friendship, acceptance and the joy of being in love. A truly remarkable and enjoyable read, I would recommend this book to everyone!

Book Review: The Blitz Bus by Glen Blackwell

About the Book:

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Emmie let out a huge sob – “It’s not a film set”, she cried. She held onto Jack for a moment, then took a step back, closed her eyes and shouted – “WHERE AM I?”

When Jack and Emmie suddenly find themselves transported back to London in 1940, they find a world both familiar, yet very different. As they dodge falling bombs and over-zealous policemen, they befriend Jan – a lonely Polish refugee. Together, they must work out if the shadowy figure they keep seeing is a spy and unlock the secret of getting home again…

My Thoughts:

The Blitz Bus is a delightfully quick read targeted at middle graders that takes us into 1940 and gives us a glimpse into England during the Second World War. Even though I am outside the actual target audience, I enjoyed this book and the adventure that Jack and Emmie find themselves on. While learning about the Second World War at school, Jack finds it difficult to picture the events and life of the people in his mind. Through this book, the author brings to us some of the historical facts in a way that would be easy to visualize for children.

Imagine reading about children your age who travel back in time and experience something that they are studying about. The whole idea is unimaginable, but is enough to keep children hooked. I like how the author stuck to a few specific facts and brought to us a view of the world through the eyes of children. Jan and Stan’s stories were well portrayed and it really brings home the hardships of the time. I also enjoyed reading about how the children found a way to stay there and survive until they could find their way back.

Through the book, children can learn about the situation in England, how people lived, the night raids, bunkers and even the food situation. The book is both educational and enjoyable and I think will be a wonderful adventure for all children to go on along with the main characters! I definitely recommend this book for middle graders and for anyone who loves a good historical fiction adventure mixed with time travel!

Book Review: Lord of the Masquerade by Erica Ridley

About the Book:

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A fun, fast-paced interracial romance full of banter, scandal, and devastating secrets, from a New York Times bestselling author:

Entrepreneur Miss Unity Thorne helped two different men amass their fortunes—only to end up on the street. She’s scraping by at the theatre, but this isn’t the show she plans to star in. The next fortune Unity builds will be hers alone. Her masquerade-themed assembly rooms will rival the ton, but to do so, she’ll have to apprentice the most dangerous rake of all.

The arrogant, sexy-and-he-knows-it Duke of Lambley’s weekly masquerade parties are decadent odes to excess: unlimited food, drink, dancing, romantic gardens, and private pleasure rooms upstairs. Everyone loves his balls, and he likes it that way. He’ll take a wife someday, but it certainly won’t be the pretty termagant who challenges him in the ballroom and the bedroom…

In the Rogues to Riches historical romance series, Cinderella stories aren’t just for princesses!

My Thoughts:

This is yet another lovely romance by Erica Ridley this time in the Rogues to Riches series. The story follows the Duke of Lambley as he orchestrates and presides over his masquerade parties. They are well planned and cater to every persons needs specifically while keeping everyone anonymous except to him. One might even say that he is controlling and this is exactly what our heroine Miss Unity Thorne thinks.

Unity hears about these much sought after parties and decides to find a way to observe them in the hopes of one day hosting her own. An entrepreneur in her own right, she helped her cousin with his business before she was cast away. Left with nothing, she tries to find her way, full of confidence. This is what drew me to the character.

This is a simple one time read that follows the two characters as they meet, fight their attraction and eventually fall in love. They are so wrong for another which just makes it right in the end! I have enjoyed reading Erica Ridley’s books in the past and once again am happy to recommend this pleasant and at times scandalous (for the time it is set in) read!

WWW WEDNESDAY – 21/07/2021

This is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

All you need to do is answer the following three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Also, do follow the host and other bloggers who participate!

It is wonderful to know what everyone is reading and recommendations are always welcome!

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What are you currently reading?

A variety of genres actually!

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am hoping to get started with my brand new copy of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. The book has an amazing cover and spray painted edges! Considering that this is one of the most talked about books, I am excited to join the fan club!

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Do stop by to share your thoughts or posts!

Book Review: The Girl from Venice by Siobhan Daiko

About the Book:

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Lidia De Angelis has kept a low profile since Mussolini’s racial laws wrenched her from her childhood sweetheart. But when the Germans occupy Venice in 1943, she must flee the city to save her life.

Lidia joins the partisans in the Venetian mountains, where she meets David, an English soldier fighting for the same cause. As she grows closer to him, harsh Nazi reprisals and Lidia’s own ardent anti-fascist activities threaten to tear them apart.

Decades later in London, while sorting through her grandmother’s belongings after her death, Charlotte discovers a Jewish prayer book, unopened letters written in Italian, and a fading photograph of a group of young people in front of the Doge’s Palace.

Intrigued by her grandmother’s refusal to talk about her life in Italy before and during the war, Charlotte travels to Venice in search of her roots. There, she learns not only the devastating truth about her grandmother’s past, but also some surprising truths about herself.

A heart-breaking page-turner, based on actual events in Italy during World War II.

My Thoughts:

This is a riveting read that takes the reader into Italy during World War II. This is the first book in the historical fiction genre that I have read that focuses on Italy and the events that unfolded here. The book talks about the war, the people, the impact it had on their lives and the secrets kept to move on in life.

We are introduced to Lidia and her granddaughter Charlotte, two strong and unique women, so different and yet similar in all the ways that matter. When Lidia passes away, Charlotte embarks on a trip to figure out who her grandmother was and what secrets she was hiding while living in London.

The story is told from each of their perspectives, giving us an insight into the present day world as Charlotte explores Italy and the events in Lidia’s life as she is careful not to be caught, but is helping out the partisans. Betrayed by some of the people she trusted and forced to endure a lot, Lidia shuts down after the war and moves away, adapting her new identity and never going back to her roots. Charlotte discovers a whole lot of things and along the way meets the people who saved her grandmother and made a difference to her life. She also ends up finding her place, love and a purpose so different than what she started out with.

This is a heart-breaking story that brings to us a reality we cannot imagine and talks about family in a way that makes us appreciate those around us. Lidia’s story enumerates that of so many others whose voices are not heard! A brilliant and well-written story, this is a must read!

Book Review: The Lost Girl of Berlin by Ella Carey

About the Book:

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The truck stopped for a moment in the freezing, bombed-out street and Kate caught sight of a little girl in a ragged dress on the steps of a once-beautiful mansion. The child’s eyes were startling blue, a pair of endless pools, drawing Kate towards her…

1946, Berlin. War correspondent Kate Mancini is in Germany, reporting on the aftermath of the devastating war. For her readers back home in New York, she tells the stories of innocent families, trying to rebuild the wreckage of their lives now the soldiers have left at last. But in the Russian-held sector of Berlin on an icy winter’s day, Kate breaks all the rules, rescuing Mia Stein, a silent orphan who she fears will otherwise perish.

Together with her fellow journalist, handsome Rick Shearer, Kate manages to find a safe house for Mia before she returns to America and vows to keep in touch. Back home, the reality of post-war life for women is stark. Whilst Rick walks into his dream job, no newspaper will hire a woman. The editors laugh her out of their offices, telling her to get married and raise a family. Rick does all he can to support her, as she takes her first steps towards the new medium of television news, and their friendship deepens into something more.

Then tragedy strikes: Rick is falsely named as a communist sympathizer. He is arrested, blacklisted and faces prison.

Kate knows she must do all she can to free the man she loves. But that means returning to Germany, to seek out the little orphan girl who is her only chance at salvation. Kate and Rick saved Mia—will she help them both now? And even if Kate succeeds, freedom might never be hers when she returns home…

My Thoughts:

I requested for and received a copy of this book via NetGalley. A huge thank you to Bookouture and the author. The below review reflects my honest opinion.

The Lost Girl of Berlin is a very well-written novel that is gripping and heart-wrenching. Set in the time post WWII, we are introduced to Kate, a journalist whose interests lie in all things post war and politics. She is dedicated and a great journalist, in a man’s world, fighting to make a place for herself. The book leads us to post was Berlin where we are introduced to various other journalists from America as well as a little girl sitting on the steps of a home that is now destroyed.

As Kate sets out to save this girl and find her truth, we are also introduced to Rick, a fellow journalist who steps in to help her out. Little do they know that this small good deed will go a very long way. The author gives us a glimpse into how the war affected the countries, people and their way of life. We also get a glimpse into the mind of the average American and the impacts on their lives. With a focus on the two main characters and glimpses into their families, this story is one of resilience and strength in one o the most difficult times.

I have read a lot of stories set during the WWII, but this is the first one that focuses on the world post war. This was refreshing and enlightening. It is heart breaking to read about everything that happened, but the most is little Mia’s story. The author brings in an unexpected twist towards the end that I honestly did not see coming, but one which brings this entire story together in the end.

I think the author has done a great job in portraying the lives of women and the expectations from them in society. Kate was indeed the first woman to present her pieces on radio and later on television. It was difficult to land a steady contract and no-one wanted a woman involved in writing or talking about political things. Taking all this in stride, Kate works hard to fight for her chance, she makes tough choices and along the way finds love, family and peace of some kind.

This is a wonderful story, but one that is based on so many truths and it is definitely an emotional read! I strongly recommend this for all fans of historical fiction and history as such!

Book Review: To Marry an Earl by Karen Thornell

About the Book:

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Katherine Cartwright knows through bitter experience that true love is fiction and trust should not be bestowed easily. Now, after two unsuccessful London Seasons, her atrocious father has decided to marry her off to the highest bidder to pay for his gambling debts, ridding himself of the daughter he never wanted. A profitable deal is struck, and Kate is packed off to the home of her betrothed, an earl she has never met. Or so she believes.

When James Fenwick, the new Earl of Bowcott, learns that the girl he’s loved since childhood is being sold off like chattel, he’s determined to step in and save her. He makes an offer her father cannot refuse and insists on a proper engagement. But when Kate meets James again, her old friend cannot bring himself to admit it is him whom she is to marry. Soon, an intricate charade and a past that cannot be escaped jeopardize James’s chance at rekindling their friendship, to say nothing of winning Kate’s heart. Can love truly conquer all, or was this a match doomed
from the start?

My Thoughts:

I requested for and received a copy of this book on NetGalley! A huge thanks to the publisher and author.

This is a delightful regency romance that follows Kate and James, childhood friends who drift apart. James has his reasons which are not known to Kate who holds on to the disappointment and heartbreak. Kate does not have an easy life and we see a woman who is trying to fight for herself and stand up for herself. When her father decides to marry her off to the highest bidder, she knows that she is doomed. Little does she know that she will once again come face to face with her childhood friend and have to revisit her feelings.

James has had a hard time and coming into an earldom was highly unexpected. When he heard about Kate’s father’s decision, all his old feelings resurfaced leading to his final decision and sudden betrothal. Therein begins a series of hidden truths, misunderstandings and some life threats, that though hilarious enough, make this a highly enjoyable read.

The story is enjoyable and fun with strong characters some likeable and some who definitely get on your nerves. The author has done a great job in bringing out the contrast in characters. I love how Kate not only finds love, but also friendship and companionship among the group. She also redevelops a strong bond with her mother who finally gains the confidence to stand up to her father. This is a classic romance that is very well-written and will sweep the reader off their feet!

As Kate and James attempt to reignite a friendship (with some interesting suggestions from James’ best friends) while battling their true feelings against a picturesque backdrop, there’s nothing for the reader to do except join the adventure and fall in love!