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Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Betrayal by Kate Furnivall

Title: The Betrayal
Author: Kate Furnivall
Publisher: 1 November 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, war, WWII
My Rating: 5 crowns


Could you kill someone? Someone you love?
Paris, 1938. This is the story of twin sisters divided by fierce loyalties and by a terrible secret. The drums of war are beating and France is poised, ready to fall. One sister is an aviatrix, the other is a socialite and they both have something to prove and something to hide.
Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage ... and betrayal.

My Thoughts

When I saw a new Kate Furnivall book, the rush was on ... where do I sign up? This author is a certain ‘go to’ as she just never fails to deliver. In this particular story, Kate has created an entertaining, intriguing and gripping story that I enjoyed from beginning to end. Packed full of details about the time preceding World War 2 and the rise of fascism in Europe, made this a gripping and intelligent read.

We begin in 1930, Paris, where a traumatic incident occurs, involving the twins, which has tragic consequences. Fast forward to 1938 just before WWII when Adolf Hitler and his party are on the the road to war.  Here unfolds a time of tumultuous confusion as events from the past keep coming back to haunt the sisters. This book will keep you guessing until the very end - so much intrigue, romance and ,yes betrayal, will see you furiously racing through pages to see how it all unfolds.

Furnivall is a master story teller. This is a book full of action with just enough romantic suspense thrown into the mix. You will love the dual narrative between the sisters, particularly Romy and her attempts to make good over perceived actions from eight years ago that she cannot fully remember. Furnivall’s descriptions of pre war Paris were real and insightful. Her research into aircraft and assistance to Spain, flawless - it reads as if you were on a mission with Romy.

The characters here - both primary and secondary - are brilliant! The twin sisters demonstrate such strength and resilience. The array of secondary characters exhibit a real depth of realism from those you cheer for, to those you are afraid of. This is a book about secrets and their impact in the form of lies and treachery. Yet through it all, there is this sense of strength and love - for sibling, for partners, for cause.

“The strong black lines of truth stand out. The lines are the scaffolding of life. They are made up of love. And hate. Love of someone. Of a cause. Of justice. Of self. Hate of someone. Of a cause. Of justice. Of self.”

From the very beginning, Furnivall will hit you with the impact of a certain event, and until the very end you will be engaged. Unusual for the heart of the story to be revealed in a prologue, but oh so clever, as the story then gradually unfolds of how this event affects the sister’s - love, guilt, intrigue, loyalty, murder.....

“I am afraid. Afraid of myself. Afraid of what is inside me. I am alone in a closed room with my dead father and I know I have murdered him.”

I cannot praise this book highly enough - a brilliant read, detailing the uncertainty of what lay ahead with the onset of WWII. ‘The Betrayal’  had me turning the pages so eager to find out what lay in store, especially for these sisters who shared such secrets and such love. Here is escapism at it’s finest - riveting storyline with plenty of punch in the plots. Please do yourself a favour and spend some time in pre-war France with these unforgettable characters.

‘I know you are a pain in the arse, hell bent on destroying yourself. The best damn flier I know, with enough courage for a whole squadron of fliers. With a generous heart and a frantic determination to drown yourself in a bottle. I don’t know what the hell happened to you in the past, Romaine, or what makes you push people away to stop anyone getting close.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

Title: The Austen Escape
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: 7th November 2017 by Thomas Nelson
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, romance, chick lit, contemporary
My Rating: 4 crowns

After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.
Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.
With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.
My Thoughts

I was excited to read this book, thinking it to be fun escapism. However, it proved to be so much more than that! Yes there was a romance and period dressing up, even the selection of characters revealed a subtle insight into their persona - but it is not just a simple retelling of a Jane Austen tale through modern eyes. The beauty and cleverness (if truth be told) of this story was placing someone from the present day into an Austen story and recounting it through their eyes and experiences. Combine that with homage paid to the great Jane Austen (‘Persuasion’ is here in all it’s glory with the misunderstandings and second chances) that one cannot help but be impressed.

“He twisted the book to see the spine. “Of course. Pride and Prejudice.” “I think they have one in every room.” “And why not? It’s a manual for life—setting right pride, prejudice, misconceptions, and self-illusions. Also some good fun.”

Oh! How I would love to go on such an ‘Austen Escape’ and lose myself in Regency England -  that alone would have been a fun tale. Yet that was a mere backdrop, in some ways, to the true message behind this tale. This is a book about friendships, forgiveness, growth and having the strength to be yourself. Each of the characters here have a checkered past, things they struggled to move on from and it’s good to take the journey into a fresh start with them.

“simply enjoy the costumes, the carriage rides, and the long walks, then sit here and check e-mail, work, or watch television.”

Then, of course, there is the insurmountable Jane Austen. You will relish the tributes to her books, the clever insights into the characters and plot with the inclusion of many a good quote. Fans of Austen will appreciate the many references, yet anyone would enjoy this character driven tale whether you were an Austen addict or not. Having read Katherine Reay's books before, I knew that she draws you into both place and person. This book demonstrates her ability to seamlessly switch between an escape to Regency England combined with the high tech of our modern world - ipads included! She will engage you with relatable characters and instill a sense of hope in you with a touch of realism.

“I mustered up a smile and looped my arm through hers. “We shall walk. When there are serious matters to discuss, Austen women walk.”

Take a break - though phones are allowed - and step inside an Austen character, not to discover who they are, but who you are! It’s witty, it’s fun and I highly recommend it to Austen fans for a sprinkling of all the famous and well loved characters she created, plus a whole lot more.

“She wrote with such precision that a single phrase evoked an emotional response. She elicited laughter, warmth, and even a sense of awe. Across two hundred years, I recognized her characters in the here and now. She wrote about people I knew.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release