Non-fiction Review: Codebreaker Girls, by Jan Slimming

book coverOverview

“What would it be like to keep a secret for fifty years? Never telling your parents, your children, or even your husband?”

Codebreaker Girls: A Secret Life at Bletchley Park tells the true story of Daisy Lawrence. Following extensive research, the author uses snippets of information, unpublished photographs and her own recollections to describe scenes from her mother’s poor, but happy, upbringing in London, and the disruptions caused by the outbreak of the Second World War to a young woman in the prime of her life.

The author asks why, and how, Daisy was chosen to work at the Government war station, as well as the clandestine operation she experienced with others, deep in the British countryside, during a time when the effects of the war were felt by everyone. In addition, the author examines her mother’s personal emotions and relationships as she searches for her young fiancée, who was missing in action overseas. The three years at Bletchley Park were Daisy’s university, but having closed the door in 1945 on her hidden role of national importance — dealing with Germany, Italy and Japan — this significant period in her life was camouflaged for decades in the filing cabinet of her mind. Now her story comes alive with descriptions, original letters, documents, newspaper cuttings and unique photographs, together with a rare and powerful account of what happened to her after the war.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

There are two good reasons why I wanted to read this book. Firstly, I became interested in Bletchley Park (BP) when I learned that my grandfather had apparently worked there during the war. This is a man I know little about because he died before I was born. Secondly, I recently finished a fiction series set during World War One at the forerunner to BP; Room 40 at the Old Admiralty Building in London. Because Codebreaker Girls is about the women who were at BP, the author’s mother in particular, I didn’t expect it to reveal much about my grandfather’s life, but it promised to tell me something about the people who did work there. Continue reading

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Review: The Indebted Earl, by Erica Vetsch (with giveaway)

book coverOverview

Can Captain Wyvern keep his new marriage of convenience all business–or will it turn into something more?

Captain Charles Wyvern owes a great debt to the man who saved his life–especially since Major Richardson lost his own life in the process. The best way to honor that hero’s dying wish is for Wyvern to escort the man’s grieving fiancée and mother safely to a new cottage home by the sea. But along the way, he learns of another obligation that has fallen on his shoulders: his uncle has died, and the captain is now the Earl of Rothwell.

When he and the ladies arrive at his new manor house in Devon, they discover an estate in need of a leader and a gaggle of girls, all wards of the former earl. War the new earl knows; young ladies and properties he does not. Still wishing to provide for the bereaved Lady Sophia Haverly, Charles proposes a marriage of convenience.

Sophie is surprised to find she isn’t opposed to the idea. It will help her care for her betrothed’s elderly mother, and she’s already fallen in love with the wayward girls on the Rothwell estate. This alliance is a chance to repay the captain who has done so much for her care, as well as divert her attention from her grief. When Wyvern returns to his sea commission, she’ll stay behind to oversee his property and wards.

It sounds so simple. Until the stalwart captain is arrested on suspicion of smuggling, and Sophie realizes how much he’s come to mean to her. Now she’ll have to learn to fight, not only for his freedom but also for his love.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

The Napoleonic Wars are over, the Emperor has been exiled to the island of Elba, and all is right with the world. Except it isn’t. An injured sea captain is watching as one of his men lays dying in a naval hospital in Portugal, a man who saved his life and who will now leave a young lady grieving for the man she will never get to marry. This is a captain drowning in guilt, and feeling duty bound to visit the family of the deceased and give them the tragic news. He expects no forgiveness; he can’t forgive himself for his actions that have led to this moment. Continue reading

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Non-fiction Review: The Plaza, by Julie Satow

book coverOverview

Journalist Julie Satow’s thrilling, unforgettable history of how one illustrious hotel has defined our understanding of money and glamour, from the Gilded Age to the Go-Go Eighties to today’s Billionaire Row.

From the moment in 1907 when New York millionaire Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt strode through the Plaza Hotel’s revolving doors to become its first guest to the afternoon in 2007 when a mysterious Russian oligarch paid a record price for the hotel’s largest penthouse, the eighteen-story white marble edifice at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street has radiated wealth and luxury.

For some, the hotel evokes images of F. Scott Fitzgerald frolicking in the Pulitzer Fountain, or Eloise, the impish young guest who pours water down the mail chute. But the true stories captured in The Plaza also include dark, hidden secrets: the cold-blooded murder perpetrated by the construction workers in charge of building the hotel, how Donald J. Trump came to be the only owner to ever bankrupt the Plaza, and the tale of the disgraced Indian tycoon who ran the hotel from a maximum-security prison cell, 7,000 miles away in Delhi.

In this definitive history, award-winning journalist Julie Satow not only pulls back the curtain on Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball and The Beatles’ first stateside visit — she also follows the money trail. The Plaza reveals how a handful of rich dowager widows were the financial lifeline that saved the hotel during the Great Depression, and how today, foreign money and anonymous shell companies have transformed iconic guest rooms into condominiums that shield ill-gotten gains, hollowing out parts of the hotel as well as the city around it.

The Plaza is the account of one vaunted New York City address that has become synonymous with wealth and scandal, opportunity and tragedy. With glamour on the surface and strife behind the scenes, it is the story of how one hotel became a mirror reflecting New York’s place at the center of the country’s cultural narrative for over a century.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

What makes a building special? Is it the architecture? The people who spent time in it? The events that took place in it? Or is it a combination in all three? The building in New York City most synonymous with the name isn’t the first incarnation of it – the first Plaza was opened in 1890 – but it’s the one that’s lasted the longest and has the stories to tell. It was built towards the end of the Gilded Age. Its first guest was a member of the famed Vanderbilt family. Despite an extension being built shortly after World War One, it appears it was mostly all downhill after that. Continue reading

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Review: The Girl in the Painting, by Tea Cooper (with giveaway)

The Girl in the Painting
by Tea Cooper

Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Thomas Nelson
Paperback & eBook; 384 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

 

 

A young prodigy in need of family. A painting that shatters a woman’s peace. And a decades-old mystery demanding to be solved.

Australia, 1906

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship— having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and the present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel takes us on a mystery across continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

Deeply researched. Emotional. Atmospheric and alive. . . Tea Cooper transports the reader to a sweeping landscape of turn of the twentieth century Australia—from the raw realities of the Australian goldfields to the sophisticated institutions of Sydney—and does so with an expert pen. Combining characters that are wonderfully complex with a story spanning decades of their lives, The Girl in the Painting is a triumph of family, faith, and long-awaited forgiveness. I was swept away!” —Kristy Cambron, award-winning author of The Paris Dressmaker and the Hidden Masterpiece novels

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

My Review

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Review: To The Dark, by Chris Nickson

To The Dark book coverOverview

Winter is about to take a chilling twist…

Thief-taker Simon Westow is drawn into a deadly puzzle when the melting snow reveals a dark secret in this gripping historical mystery, perfect for fans of Anne Perry and Charles Finch.

Leeds, 1822. The city is in the grip of winter, but the chill deepens for thief-taker Simon Westow and his young assistant, Jane, when the body of Laurence Poole, a petty local thief, emerges from the melting snow by the river at Flay Cross Mill.

A coded notebook found in Laurence’s room mentions Charlie Harker, the most notorious fence in Leeds who’s now running for his life, and the mysterious words: To the dark. What was Laurence hiding that caused his death? Simon’s hunt for the truth pits him against some dangerous, powerful enemies who’ll happily kill him in a heartbeat – if they can.

Review

Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

It’s the second half of the Regency Era in the United Kingdom. King George IV has held the throne in his own right for a little over two years. The Napoleonic Wars are over, and the French Emperor is dead. So is Jane Austen, whose books have given us a romantic and elegant view of the times which has been copied multiple times since then. But Chris Nickson is not Jane Austen, and his Leeds is a long way from Pemberley. Continue reading

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