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One Moonlit Night By Rachel Hore

One Moonlit Night‘One Moonlit Night’ is the latest book by Rachel Hore.

Forced to leave their family home in London after it is bombed, Maddie and her two young daughters take refuge at Knyghton, the beautiful country house in Norfolk where Maddie’s husband Philip spent the summers of his childhood. But Philip is gone, believed to have been killed in action in northern France. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Maddie refuses to give up hope that she and Philip will some day be reunited. Arriving at Knyghton, Maddie feels closer to her missing husband, but she soon realises that there’s a reason Philip has never spoken to her about his past. Something happened at Knyghton one summer years before. Something that involved Philip, his cousin Lyle and a mysterious young woman named Flora. Maddie’s curiosity turns to desperation as she tries to discover the truth, but no one will speak about what happened all those years ago, and no one will reassure her that Philip will ever return to Knyghton.

I’ve spent this morning with my head in this beautifully written story about new beginnings and loss.

Unknown of whether her husband Philip is dead or alive whilst fighting in the war. Maddie’s family home is bombed, with nowhere to turn, she finds refuge in the Knyghton, the childhood home of Philip.

Along with her two little girls Sarah and Grace,Maddie is trying to adjust to a quieter pace of life in Norfolk living with Lyle, Philip’s cousin Lyle, a contrary man and Gussie, Philip eccentric aunt along with her four dogs. Maddie has never given up hope that Philip will return to her and throws herself into providing a good life for her little girls, focusing on her illustration work whilst learning the history of Philip’s family and the mystery that’s surrounds the Anderson family.

When it comes to historical fiction, it’s a genre that I don’t read much of it but I thoroughly enjoyed spending my morning with my head in this historical journey.

Beautifully written, this book was a joy to read. Maddie is a great character, she’s a kind and resilient woman determined to provide a better life for her little girls and is not afraid of hard work. It makes for fascinating reading as she learns about Philip’s complex family history and meets the family that’s all ever heard about. There’s an array of colourful characters in this story, particularly Gussie who had a childlike wonder about the world as well as whilst being mysterious about the Anderson family. The descriptions of Knyghton are wonderfully descriptive, as well as the turmoil of the Second World War and how lives were torn apart.

A compelling story packed with secrets, hope and mystery, ‘One Moonlit Night’ is a touching and poignant story about never giving up and family.

You can buy ‘One Moonlit Night’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Diver And The Lover By Jeremy Vine

The Diver And The Lover‘The Diver And The Lover’ is the latest book by Jeremy Vine.

It is 1951 and sisters Ginny and Meredith have travelled from England to Spain in search of distraction and respite. The two wars have wreaked loss and deprivation upon the family and the spectre of Meredith’s troubled childhood continues to haunt them. Their journey to the rugged peninsula of Catalonia promises hope and renewal. While there they discover the artist Salvador Dali is staying in nearby Port Lligat. Meredith is fascinated by modern art and longs to meet the famous surrealist. Dali is embarking on an ambitious new work, but his headstrong male model has refused to pose. A replacement is found, a young American waiter with whom Ginny has struck up a tentative acquaintance.The lives of the characters become entangled as family secrets, ego and the dangerous politics of Franco’s Spain threaten to undo the
fragile bonds that have been forged.

One genre of books that I don’t read enough is historical fiction, so when I was offered the opportunity to read ‘The Diver and the Lover’, I was curious particularly as the story is based on true events.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of long lost sisters Meredith and Ginny, after Ginny saves her sister from a mental hospital and they escape to Spain. Meredith has battles with mental health and anxiety after she and her father were found starving and alone after the sudden death of her mother when she was a child. Her father moved on and had another daughter but Meredith never recovered and has bouts of blindness when anxious. It’s whilst on this journey that Ginny is hoping to grow a relationship with her sister but finds it hard when they become embroiled in working with world famous artist Salvador Dali and Meredith has a love for art and Dali befriends her. Whilst Meredith is working alongside Dali on his latest painting, Ginny finds herself falling for Adam, the young Canadian diver who is the subject for Dali’s latest painting.

The story is seen through multiple perspectives and the range of different narratives give an interesting slant to the story, from the well informed art lovers to the American stunt man who doesn’t agree with Dali’s work.

The story flows at a nice pace and I enjoyed the story mixing fact with romantic fiction against the heady backdrop of Catalonia. It’s obviously well researched and it was fascinating to read about Salvador Dali and his controversial painting of ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’, as well as his inspiration behind his other pieces of art and his eccentricities.

A story combining fact and romance with troubled characters and a fascinating plot line that made for engaging reading. Cleverly written with mystery and complicated relationships throughout, ‘The Diver and the Lover’ is a stunning escape to 1950’s Catalonia.

You can preorder ‘The Diver And The Lover’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

The Forbidden Promise By Lorna Cook

The Forbidden Promise‘The Forbidden Promise’ is the latest book by Lorna Cook.

Scotland, 1940 – War rages across Europe, but Invermoray House is at peace – until the night of Constance’s 21st birthday, when she’s the only person to see a Spitfire crash into the loch. Rescuing the pilot and vowing to keep him hidden, Constance finds herself torn between duty to her family and keeping a promise that could cost her everything. 2020 – Kate arrives in the Highlands to turn Invermoray into a luxury B&B, only to find that the estate is more troubled than she’d imagined. But when Kate discovers the house has a dark history, with Constance’s name struck from its records, she knows she can’t leave until the mystery is solved.

Set during the Second World War and the present, ‘The Forbidden Promise’ is a story of forbidden love and secrets.

The past tense is written from the perspective of Constance on the night of her 21st birthday, after managing to escape the grips of her older brothers friend, she manages to save the life of pilot Matthew when his plane crushes into the lough beside her family home. Desperate to escape he hides from the war whilst recovering. As the war rages around Europe, Constance’s family has to give up their Invermoray House, the family estate to house injured soldiers. Fast forward many years and Kate has been called into help fix the ruined Invermoray House and help bring it into the future. But this isn’t an easy task as Kate has to compete with the son of the estate who battles against her ideas for the redesign.

This is a heartwarming love story and with the different perspective gives an interesting slant to the story. I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters from Constance’s perspective. In a time where women were women to be seen and not heard, Constance is a breath of fresh air, wanting to be independent and have an active part in helping with the ongoing war, much to her mother’s despair who wishes her daughter was more restrained. The relationship between Matthew and Constance is a lovely one to read, as they banter with each other before growing closer and having to hide their forbidden love. Kate is also a great character as she tackles with new characters, emotions as well as unravel the many mysteries of Invermoray House.

Beautifully written and well researched, ‘The Forbidden Promise’ is a stunning story of love through the ages. This book has fascinating characters, suspense and an eerie house riddled with secrets that was captivating from the first page.

You can buy ‘The Forbidden Promise’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

Towards The Vanishing Point by Jan Turk Petrie

Towards The Vanishing Point‘Towards The Vanishing Point’ is the latest book by Jan Turk Petrie.

In the North of England in1938, two ten-year-old girls, Lily Hetherington and Stella Marsden, form a close if unlikely friendship that endures despite their wartime experiences. After the war, the two women are working as nursing auxiliaries when Lily meets male nurse Will Bagshaw. Stella begins to hear sinister rumours about the man, but the besotted Lily won’t listen to a word said against him. Can Stella make her see sense before it’s too late?

I don’t often read historical fiction so ‘The Vanishing Point’ was a nice change. The story is primarily seen through the perspective of childhood friends Stella and Lilly, as they grow up together experience love and loss as well an unexpected additions in their lives.

Set against the dark times of the Second World War, this story focuses on friendship and the hardships that women had to go through at these times. Both women are strong and fierce characters that make for interesting reading. Spanning over 30 years, the story is well researched with the dialect and language that was used in that name. There are many angles to the story, but the main one is suspense when a charismatic man called Will enters Lily’s life and put her and Stella’s friendship into question. He’s a complex man who many people are suspicious off when Lily turns out to be his third wife.

The story primarily focuses on friendship and relationships but it does delve into the poverty and the sexism towards women during that era and I did find the story to be vividly written with descriptions of the bomb shelters and the impact they had on people’s lives.

A creative story that follows the ups and downs of life when men and life become in the way of friendships, ‘Towards The Vanishing Point’ is a compelling story that was a nice distraction from the usual genre I read.

You can buy ‘Towards The Vanishing Point’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Sapphire Widow Book

Dinah JefferiesToday on the book tour for Dinah Jefferies new book called ‘The Sapphire Widow’, Dinah tells us the story behind the book.

Most novels are not written; they are written and then rewritten, and that sometimes results in a lengthy process of editing before a book reaches the shops. You don’t often hear about the changes a novel goes through, so I’m going to let you into the secrets that lie behind the final edition of ‘The Sapphire Widow’.

It all began months ago when I completed the first rough draft and heaved a massive sigh of relief. For me this early draft is about feverishly getting the basic story and the characters down on paper. Every day that I’m faced with a blank page can become torturous, so the sooner it’s over the better.

My agent is the first person to set eyes on it, and it’s a scary stage: will she like it, or will she hate it? It’s crucial that she believes in me as she is the one who negotiates with the publisher on my behalf. As this book was already under contract, it wasn’t necessary for her to submit the manuscript to the publisher, but it was still vital to receive her feedback as she’d be the first to see it from a reader’s point of view.

As I suspected, she felt Louisa hadn’t fully come to life and it was too obvious that Elliot was shady. I really love the editing process and, to address these issues, I worked on making Louisa stronger and more independent and by removing any hints that Elliot was not as upright as Louisa thought he was.

The next stage was to liaise with my editor at Penguin. The way it works is that she suggests where the book needs further thought, and I then dream up ways to achieve that. She felt Elliot was now too squeaky clean, so to infer his less than perfect character, I gave him a history of gambling and being rather too fond of the drink. And added that, in Louisa’s words, he could be a bit ‘peevish’.

The Sapphire Widow

When my editor recommended that Louisa could still do with being more fully developed, I focussed on ensuring the character had energy and grit and was someone who, despite suffering, has a huge capacity for life, love and recovery. I laughed when my editor also added that Leo could afford to be less taciturn and more attractive, as she always says that about my men but, nevertheless, I relished making him taller and leaner and altogether much kinder.

We both felt that the first half of the novel dedicated too much time to Louisa and Elliot and that the plot needed to move more quickly from his death. To achieve this, I included new scenes with Leo. One was where I explore the hurt he experienced when he talks about his past and tells Louisa that the woman he had hoped to marry jilted him for his best friend. The manuscript also needed more moments of joy and relief to balance the grief and betrayal, so I re-wrote the unfolding of the relationship between Louisa and Leo, and now we see more of them together as the novel progresses. I added the light-hearted boat trip with Conor, and the romantic dawn walk, and enjoyed having Leo turn up at Louisa’s house late in the evening. And for my readers to feel even more sympathetic towards Leo, I stressed how much he cared about Conor.

Louisa’s father, Jonathan, needed a stronger presence, and we decided that more could also be made of Margo and Gwen. A new scene came to mind in which Gwen visits Louisa and helps out with Conor, not only cementing her friendship with Louisa, but also giving her a chance to show how much she has matured since she took the title role in The Tea Planter’s Wife in 2015.

You may think it’s upsetting to be asked to make changes, but it really isn’t. When I write a first draft my focus is entirely on the writing and I know it is far from set in stone, but my editor is, like my agent, looking at it from a reader’s viewpoint and her feedback is phenomenally helpful in shaping the story. My agent and editor have a wealth of publishing experience and I trust them both implicitly. I’m never forced to do anything and, if I don’t agree with something, we talk it through and reach an agreement.

The editing process is different with every book; sometimes it’s the plot or the structure that needs more work, sometimes it’s the setting or the dialogue and, as in this case, sometimes it’s the characters. The fun part of editing is that it’s a creative challenge. I love shifting the story around and enriching my readers’ enjoyment by bringing the characters to life and making the book the best it can be. It can be tough if you delete a scene, or even a character you are fond of, but nothing is lost and there may be a way to use the material in another book.

It’s been a privilege to work with a wonderful team at Penguin. I’ve learnt that each book is a result of a collaboration and there are a million different ways to tell every story. To tell you everything that changed as I went along would take too long, but I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a little about the story behind ‘The Sapphire Widow’.

You can pre-order The Sapphire Widow from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 5th April 2018.