- Published: 08 June 2023 08 June 2023
I chose to read Return to Satterthwaite Court by Mimi Matthews not realising that it was the third book in her Somerset Stories series. Fortunately, I had read the two previous books, but don’t think it would matter if you hadn’t. Charles and Kate are the grown-up children of the couples in The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim, and it is interesting to note the influence on both of them of their parents’ stable loving relationships, which were not always the case among the upper classes at this time.
This story is unusual for the genre in that it is Kate who is pursuing Charles and not the other way round. She possesses skills and qualities that were not appreciated at that time by men looking for a wife. They expected docility and freedom to spend their wife’s money as they pleased. Perhaps that is why Kate has not yet met anyone with whom she felt a rapport during her first season. She is looking for someone who can see beyond her looks and wealth.
She is in London and about to return home for Christmas when she encounters Charles who is chasing a runaway dog. He makes an impression on her, and when she discovers that his family home is also in Somerset, she makes a bold first move. Charles tries to buy his mother’s former family home, Satterthwaite Court, but encounters secrets from the past and wrongs that must be put right before he can achieve his goal. Somehow, Kate becomes involved in the ensuing mystery, which provides plenty of opportunities for her and Charles to get to know each other better.
The characters are well drawn, the period detail is spot on, and the romance between Charles and Kate is a joy to read. I always enjoy Mimi Matthews’ books and Return to Satterthwaite Court is no exception. It was over far too soon, but I have already downloaded the next one, Appointment in Bath, which features Kate’s brother Ivo. Thanks to Perfectly Proper Press and NetGalley for a digital copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT
- Published: 31 May 2023 31 May 2023
When visiting her old friend Sammy, in the Cotswolds village of Foxwell, Lou encounters grumpy octogenarian Edgar and comes to his assistance. His house is huge and it’s obvious he can’t cope on his own, but none of his previous helpers have stayed the course. Edgar takes a shine to Lou and offers her a job, but she is already happily employed caring for a woman with MS. Edgar continues to pester Lou, not taking no for an answer, so when she unexpectedly finds herself without a job or anywhere to live, she reluctantly takes Edgar up on his offer. She now tries to introduce Edgar into the community with mixed results, but everything changes when he meets rescue dog Captain Oates.
I have read and enjoyed all of Jill Mansell’s books over the years, and Promise Me is no exception. The places she writes about feel real, and despite everyone knowing each other’s business, Foxwell came across as an attractive village. There are several storylines woven together which add depth to the narrative, so the romance is only part of the story. The characters are well drawn and mostly likeable with the exception of Della and her children – they were so selfish and greedy I really hoped they would get their comeuppance. Sammy’s story is interesting too, as he comes up against the full force of the music industry and the media. You know you are going to get a happy ending, but it takes skillful writing to make it happen. Once again, Jill Mansell has written a heart-warming tale that will keep you up long into the night as you read just one more chapter. Thanks to Headline Review and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 19 May 2023 19 May 2023
Long Way Home is the second book in this new series about Jack McNeal, a detective in the Internal Affairs section of NYPD. In the first book his wife was murdered, and the action he took then has now come back to haunt him. Unusually for a crime thriller like this, the story was not brought to a satisfactory conclusion, but carried over into the second book. Having now read both books, I am of the (perhaps unpopular) opinion that this story could have been condensed into one book, thereby doing away with the need for the repetition that is common to both.
I like the character of Jack McNeal and that is why I kept on reading. He is convincing as a deeply troubled soul who has lost his wife and son, and maybe his moral compass too. Normally he does things by the book, but he is up against a conspiracy that goes right to the top levels of government. He is now a suspect in the eyes of the FBI, and the criminals are trying their best to eliminate him. He has no choice but to accept the help of someone from his past who he would normally give a wide berth to. This story is unrelentingly bleak, with none of the usual humour to offset the violence and darkness. To be honest, I was glad when I got to the end. The loose ends are all tied up, but I’m not sure I want to read any more if there is a another book in this series. Thanks to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 24 May 2023 24 May 2023
The year is 1946, and in the Suffolk village of Oakbourne the men who survived the war have returned home. The women who stepped up to take their place now find themselves once more confined to domestic duties. There is a sense of relief that the war is over, but everything in the garden is not rosy. A lot of books and films seem to suggest that everything then returns to normal, but those who fought have seen and done things from which they can never recover, and those left behind are also finding it hard to re-adjust to their changing roles.
Sir Stephen Rayne is a changed man, traumatised by something that he will not talk about that occurred during his time with the French resistance. Nowadays he would be diagnosed with PTSD, but back then he was expected to pull himself together and get on with life. Alice Rayne is glad the war is over, but the man who has returned to her is not the gentle poet she married. He shuts himself away in the attic, grows increasingly bitter and cruel, and she is at the end of her tether. She seeks solace in restoring the walled garden which has been allowed to go to rack and ruin during the war years.
Local doctor Jonathan Downes is also a changed man. He was a gifted surgeon before the war, but losing his leg and a spell in a POW camp have left him a very difficult man to live with. His children are still traumatised by surviving the Blitz, and his wife resents being ‘demoted’ to just housewife again, so all is not well in the Downes household. George Ivens, the local vicar, did not serve in the war due to his ill health, and has come to Suffolk on the advice of his doctor. He and Alice grow close, which is understandable in the circumstances, but will he choose to take their relationship further or selflessly take a step back?
The Walled Garden gets off to a slow start as we are introduced to the characters and their situations. The story is told from different viewpoints so we get insight into the lives of all the main characters, who are well written and believable though I found it quite hard to warm to Alice. Despite his behaviour, I found Stephen easier to relate to. The beautiful setting contrasts with the suffering of those living there. The walled garden of the title is more symbolic than physical as it does not feature much in the story but suggests the possibility of renewal and rebirth. Ultimately, this is a positive and hopeful book, despite the deprivation and rationing that will continue until the early 1950s. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the artwork on this one is very striking. Thanks to Bonnier Books UK, Manilla Press and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.
- Published: 15 May 2023 15 May 2023
Having enjoyed a few of Lizzie Lamb’s novels before, I was looking forward to reading Dark Highland Skies and was not disappointed. Halley Dunbar has come back to Scotland to arrange the funeral of her great-uncle Tam whom she had not seen for twenty years. She plans to clear out Tam’s bothy, and go back home to Hawaii straight after the funeral, but life is never that simple. She had not reckoned on the various members of the Strachan family she would have to deal with, and once again falling under the spell of this beautiful part of the world.
Lizzie Lamb obviously loves the highlands of Scotland as she visits every year to research her books, and this shows in the vivid descriptions of the Silver Sands of Morar. I spent many holidays there and can vouch that she does it justice. If you remember the 1983 film Local Hero, some of the beach scenes were filmed there. After reading Dark Highland Skies, I’m sure many readers will be keen to visit and see the silver sands and dark skies for themselves.
Tor Strachan is portrayed in a believable and sympathetic light, as an ex-Major in the army coming to terms with a life-changing injury and the ongoing effects of PTSD. Halley Dunbar is a highly intelligent woman with a promising career ahead of her, but needs to come to terms with what happened to her all those years ago before it colours the rest of her life. They are supported by a wonderfully drawn cast of characters who range from the quirky to the downright nasty. The story is told from both Halley and Tor’s points of view so we get a more rounded picture. They both have issues to work through before there is room in their lives for a relationship, but they have a strong connection so hopefully it will all work out. I really enjoyed my trip back to Morar in Dark Highland Skies, and look forward to Lizzie Lamb’s next Highland adventure. I review this book as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT