What Did I Read in July 2022?

July here in Australia was a month for sitting by the fire with a good book. It rained, then it rained some more. The weather was dismal, and television held little of interest for me. Covid was still about and restrictions were in place. Time to settle in with a good book. There are more than usual romances and Regency books. I have written one Regency novella and have plans for another.

Perfect time to sit by the fire and read.

Lord Somerton’s Heir by Alison Stuart.

First love left them desolate … can a new love heal their wounds? A tale of second chance love in aristocratic Regency England, for lovers of all things Bridgerton.

Sebastian Alder’s sudden elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of fairy tales, but the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition leaves him little time for fantasy, and the memory of his wife’s brutal death haunts his every moment. When he learns of the mysterious circumstances of his cousin’s demise, he must also look for a potential murderer … surely not Isabel, his cousin’s ladylike widow?

Isabel, Lady Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. Her hopes are shattered from beyond the grave when she is left not only penniless but once more bound to the whims of a Somerton … although perhaps the new Lord Somerton is a man she can trust … or even care for?

Suspicion could tear them apart … honesty and courage may pull them together.

(Winner of the 2012 Romance Through the Ages Award for an unpublished manuscript – Romance Writers of America Historical Chapter) 

Gorgeous cover.

My Review A mystery and a romance combined. The interaction between the couple is engaging and fun. Sebastian isn’t your typical aristocrat and has no pretension to be one. Initially, Lady Isabel is all an aristocrat should be, apart from her concern for the less fortunate. After a shaky start, they begin to appreciate each other, but then the past comes back to disrupt the budding relationship. Can they trust each other?

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn.

The New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code returns with an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history’s deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story.

In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son–but Hitler’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper–a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour.

Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC–until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life.

Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever.

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A sharp cover.

My Review.

The story seems unbelievable and yet it is based on fact. Like many people, I was fascinated and slightly repelled by the idea of a female sniper. The question lurking at the back of my mind was, ‘how could she?’ Once you start reading your doubts and misconceptions are swept away. It was the time and place and the circumstances that made Mila Pavlichenko. It wasn’t a life she had wanted or planned, she simply had to learn to survive. For her son, for her family and for her country. Russia bore the brunt of Hitler’s war for so long, sacrificing far more than any other country. Conditions were harsh and Mila learnt to adapt and earned respect, she had to set her sensibilities aside in a deadly certainty of kill or be killed.

The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

Horry Winwood doesn’t play by the rules.
So when her family are near ruin and her sister is about to enter a loveless marriage to a wealthy man to settle the family debts, young and headstrong Horry proposes to marry him in her sister’s place.
As her new husband’s attentions fall elsewhere, Horry begins to feel increasingly unhappy.
Then she meets the attractive and dangerous Lord Lethbridge and her days suddenly become more exciting.
But there is bad blood between Horry’s husband and her new acquaintance, and as complications and deceptions mount, the social tangle grows ever trickier to unpick.

Will Horry’s gamble cost her everything she holds most dear?

A rebranded Georgette Heyer

My Review.

It’s not often I read a book and want to slap the heroine. Bad enough she is called Horrie, surely, they meant Horror?  Frankly, she is a spoiled brat and whilst initially, she appears to have some sense, it rapidly deserts her. The background of Regency life is good. Lord Rule is amiable and lazy but twice Horrie’s age. It didn’t sit particularly well with me, although obviously historically accurate.

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer.

“Skillfully researched and powerfully written, The German Wife will capture you from the first page.” —Madeline Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Bookshop in London

The New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Orphan returns with a gripping novel inspired by the true story of Operation Paperclip: a controversial secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII.

Berlin, Germany, 1930—When the Nazis rise to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes and her academic husband benefit from the military ambitions of Germany’s newly elected chancellor when Jürgen is offered a high-level position in their burgeoning rocket program. Although they fiercely oppose Hitler’s radical views, and joining his ranks is unthinkable, it soon becomes clear that if Jürgen does not accept the job, their income will be taken away. Then their children. And then their lives.

Huntsville, Alabama, 1950—Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of many German scientists pardoned and granted a position in America’s space program. For Sofie, this is a chance to leave the horrors of her past behind. But when rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spread among her new American neighbors, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results tears apart a family and leaves the community wondering—is it an act of vengeance or justice?

“An unforgettable novel that explores important questions highly relevant to the world today.” —Christine Wells, author of Sisters of the Resistance.

My Review. An interesting and informative read, I am hesitant to use the word entertaining, perhaps engaging would be better. What I found remarkable was the subtle and incremental erosion of freedoms. So many tiny decisions to make, all of them adding up. How could any of us know how we might act? It was so well researched, which must have been harrowing to do. Believable.

When a Duke Loves a Woman by Lorraine Heath.

Gillie Trewlove knows what a stranger’s kindness can mean, having been abandoned on a doorstep as a baby and raised by the woman who found her there. So, when suddenly faced with a soul in need at her door—or the alleyway by her tavern—Gillie doesn’t hesitate. But he’s no infant. He’s a grievously injured, distractingly handsome gentleman who doesn’t belong in Whitechapel, much less recuperating in Gillie’s bed.

Being left at the altar is humiliating; being rescued from thugs by a woman—albeit a brave and beautiful one—is the pièce de résistance to the Duke of Thornley’s extraordinarily bad day. After nursing him back from the brink, Gillie agrees to help him comb London’s darker corners for his wayward bride. But every moment together is edged with desire and has Thorne rethinking his choice of wife. Yet Gillie knows the aristocracy would never accept a duchess born in sin. Thorne, however, is determined to prove to her that no obstacle is insurmountable when a duke loves a woman.

My Review. While readable, I don’t think this quite worked on the same level as the first book in the series. Maybe it’s how Gillie is described for much of the book. Somehow, the handsome Thorne sees past the forbidding façade she has built up to the kind, caring and passionate woman she is.

The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Frances O’Connor 

A renowned grief expert and neuroscientist shares ground-breaking discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning.

For as long as humans have existed, we have struggled when a loved one dies. Poets and playwrights have written about the dark cloak of grief, the deep yearning, how devastating heartache feels. But until now, we have had little scientific perspective on this universal experience.

In The Grieving Brain, neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD, gives us a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. O’Connor has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, and in this book, she makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible through her contagious enthusiasm, and guides us through how we encode love and grief. With love, our neurons help us form attachments to others; but, with loss, our brain must come to terms with where our loved ones went, or how to imagine a future that encompasses their absence.

Based on O’Connor’s own trailblazing neuroimaging work, research in the field, and her real-life stories, The Grieving Brain does what the best popular science books do, combining storytelling, accessible science, and practical knowledge that will help us better understand what happens when we grieve and how to navigate loss with more ease and grace

My Review. Perhaps one more the scientists and researchers than those experiencing grief.

The Scoundrel in Her Bed by Lorraine Heath.

The bastard son of a nobleman, Finn Trewlove was a shameful secret raised by a stranger. As Finn came of age, he had secrets, too—the clandestine nights spent with an earl’s daughter. But her promise of forever ended in betrayal.

Driven by a past that haunts her, Lady Lavinia Kent seeks redemption in London’s underworld, engaged in a daring cause inspired by the young man to whom she gave her innocence, and who then proved himself a scoundrel by abandoning her.

When their paths cross again, they can’t deny the yearning and desire that still burns. As they discover the truth behind the deceptions that tore them apart, Finn and Lavinia must fight to reclaim what they’ve lost, no matter how dangerous—because love is worth the risk.

My Review.

Their love story is unique as each navigates past hurts and wonders if it is possible to trust again. I was cheering this couple on hoping they would find their way to happiness. A hot and steamy romance.

Dressing the Dearloves by Kelly Doust

One crumbling grand manor house, a family in decline, five generations of women, and an attic full of beautiful clothes with secrets and lies hidden in their folds.

Kelly Doust, author of Precious Things, spins another warm, glamorous and romantic mystery of secrets, love, fashion, families – and how we have to trust in ourselves, even in our darkest of days. One for lovers of Kate Morton, Belinda Alexandra, Fiona McIntosh and Lucy Foley.

Failed fashion designer Sylvie Dearlove is coming home to England – broke, ashamed and in disgrace – only to be told her parents are finally selling their once-grand, now crumbling  now crumbling country house, Bledesford, the ancestral home of the Dearlove family for countless generations. Sylvie has spent her whole life trying to escape being a Dearlove, and the pressure of belonging to a family of such headstrong, charismatic and successful women.

Beset by self-doubt, she starts helping her parents prepare Bledesford for sale, when she finds in a forgotten attic a thrilling cache of old steamer trunks and tea chests full of elaborate dresses and accessories acquired from across the globe by five generations of fashionable Dearlove women.

Sifting through the past, she also stumbles across a secret which has been hidden – in plain sight – for decades, a secret that will change the way she thinks about herself, her family, and her future.

Romantic, warm, and glamorous, moving from Edwardian England to the London Blitz to present day London, Dressing the Dearloves is a story of corrosiveness of family secrets, the insecurities that can sabotage our best efforts, and the seductive power of dressing up

My Review.

Not quite an impoverished aristocrat, but from a landed family now fallen on hard times, Sylvie Dearlove is marking time. New York is behind her and with no discernible future, she is at home at her family estate. I found some of the transitions into the past slightly confusing. Overall though the story comes together and like a kaleidoscope the pieces shift to form a different pattern.

A Three Dog Problem: The Queen Investigates a Murder at Buckingham Palace by S. J. Bennett.

HM the Queen Investigates Book 2

In the wake of a referendum which has divided the nation, the last thing the Queen needs is any more problems to worry about. But when an oil painting of the Royal Yacht Britannia – first given to the Queen in the 1960s – shows up unexpectedly in a Royal Navy exhibition, she begins to realise that something is up.

When a body is found in the Palace swimming pool, she finds herself once again in the middle of an investigation which has more twists and turns than she could ever have suspected. With her trusted secretary Rozie by her side, the Queen is determined to solve the case. But will she be able to do it before the murderer strikes again? 

My Review. I enjoyed this book. It’s as fascinating for the insights into the running of the palace as much as for the mystery itself. HM’s sense of humour comes through in several places. Why should one of the richest women in the world care about a little painting? It’s not the painting itself, it’s what it represents. Rozie is the most admirable of assistants, loyal, discreet and not above breaking the rules.

 Undercover Duke by Sabrina Jefferies.

Bridgerton fans and readers of Madeline Hunter, Eloisa James, and Lisa Kleypas won’t want to miss this humorous and clever new love story from the historical romance legend.

Along with his stepsiblings, Sheridan Wolfe, Duke of Armitage, is determined to finally solve the mysteries behind the suspicious deaths of their mother’s three husbands. Tasked with investigating a possible suspect, Sheridan finds himself in dangerous proximity to her captivating daughter, Vanessa Pryde. But still haunted by a tragically lost love, the duke is resolved to resist the attraction—and avoid any “scheming” husband-hunters. Besides, lovely Miss Pryde seems utterly smitten with a roguish London playwright…

Vanessa thinks a little scheming may be in order—for it’s Sheridan she truly has her sights, and her heart, set on. Her theatrical flirtation is intended only to break through his business-like demeanor and guarded emotions. And as Sheridan’s jealousy becomes aroused, the two soon find themselves propelled into a scheme of an altogether different kind, involving a pretend engagement, a secret inquiry—and a perhaps not-so-secret leap into true love…

My Review.

When I picked this book, I hadn’t realised it was part of a series. The perils of a quick library book grab! My understanding of the story would have been enhanced if I had read the others. Perhaps the proposition that three Dukes had been murdered was a little farfetched, but this is fiction after all. Vanessa is an engaging heroine and I felt for her having to pretend an interest in playwright Konrad Juncker when in reality it’s Sheridan she wants. He needs a wife but is determined not to marry just for a dowry to prop up his estate. The tragic end of his previous relationship has affected him. Anyway, in his eyes, Vanessa is a chit of a girl, far too young for him. How the story progressed was entertaining and it amused me that Sheridan can’t see the games Vanessa is up to.

The Little Wartime Library by Kate Thompson

London, 1944.

Clara Button is no ordinary librarian. While the world remains at war, in East London Clara has created the country’s only underground library, built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station. Down here a secret community thrives: with thousands of bunk beds, a nursery, a café and a theatre offering shelter, solace and escape from the bombs that fall above.

Along with her glamorous best friend and library assistant Ruby Munroe, Clara ensures the library is the beating heart of life underground. But as the war drags on, the women’s determination to remain strong in the face of adversity is tested to the limits when it seems it may come at the price of keeping those closest to them alive.

Based on true events, The Little Wartime Library is a gripping and heart-wrenching page-turner that remembers one of the greatest resistance stories of the war

Hardcover, 496 pages.

My Review.

Gives such a great sense of time and place and peopled with characters we come to care about. It’s a good story and based on facts. Ingenuity and spirit were the defining things about the Bethnal Green underground library. Should people be deprived of books because there’s a war on? Defiantly the answer was no, people needed books more than ever.  Public libraries are egalitarian and provide a free service for anyone who has a ticket. Maybe they weren’t all reading highbrow improving books, but they were reading for escapism, for romance, for history.

The Earl Takes a Fancy By Lorriane Heath.

New York Times bestselling author Lorraine Heath pens another richly satisfying romance in her Sins for all Seasons series.

She’s looking for a nobleman to wed…

Though born out of wedlock, Fancy Trewlove is determined to fulfill her mother’s wish that she marry into nobility. Fancy’s keen intellect and finishing school manners make her the perfect wife for any gentleman—if he’s willing to overlook her scandalous lineage. But Fancy’s plans are thrown into chaos when an intriguing commoner begins visiting her bookshop—and she finds herself unable to stop thinking about him.

He’s looking to escape his title…

Widowed just a year ago, the reclusive Matthew Sommersby, Earl of Rosemont, has been besieged by women hoping to become his next wife. Desperate for anonymity, he sheds Society life to search for the peace that eludes him. Fancy’s shop is his one refuge, until the night their passion erupts into a kiss that nearly leads to her ruin—and leaves both longing for much more.

Together, they discover an unlikely love…

As Fancy finds herself torn between her family’s expectations and her growing feelings for Matthew, secrets are exposed—secrets that force Fancy to question if she can trust her heart’s desire.

My Review.

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book as Fancy is both the youngest and most protected of the siblings. It seems as if she has had a far easier time than any of the others. Although that comes with expectations, that she will marry well, preferably a lord. Her passion for her book shop and love of books went part of the way to winning me over.

Matthew was incognito, playing a part and with each day getting more involved with Fancy. She is everything he admires but she has told him she has to marry well and this makes him doubt her. So, the man who hates subterfuge justifies keeping deceiving her.

Then an event forces them to confront each other. Is he the man she hoped he was and is she the woman of his dreams? Before this can resolve, hurt and pride need to be put aside.

I will always find time to read!

I read thirteen books this month, which when I counted them up surprised me. I would be hard pressed to name a favourite, although I relished the humour of A Three Dog Problem, after the more serious books. I’ve almost finished the Sins For All Seasons collection. They are on the steamier side of romance. I believe we should read whatever we want, for pleasure and enjoyment. While romance celebrates relationships, books based on fact illuminate the past in ways that resonate with us and connect us to that experience. Crime and murder intrigues us, as long as we are safe and only reading about them.

Now ,I am already four books into my August reading.

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