#TheItalianGirls by Debbie Rix (@DebbieRix) @Bookouture

Thank you, as always, to Bookouture for inviting me on Debbie Rix’s blog tour, and for supplying me with an ARC.

The sun hung low in the sky, casting pink light all over the city. A faint breeze blew over the rooftops, as flocks of starlings swirled above her, swooping and diving in unison. It seemed unimaginable that, even now, German soldiers were marching along the streets below. It was time, she decided, for direct action. It was time to fight back.

Each morning Livia Moretti makes her way from an apartment overlooking Florence’s famous Duomo to a nearby café, where she drinks espresso and reads the newspaper. To the crowds of tourists who pass by, snapping selfies, nothing about Livia will be memorable. She is simply an old lady. They walk on without knowing the part she played in ensuring the future of this beautiful city. And to Livia now, those dark days feel very far away too.

But today, when she opens the paper, she sees a name she has not heard for a long time. A name that will bring memories flooding back of Nazi troops marching through the city and the dangers she faced as a young woman, carrying out secret missions for the resistance.

Isabella Bellucci.

A siren of the silver screen, Isabella cultivated all the right connections to ensure her rise to stardom. But when Rome falls to the Nazis, Isabella is suddenly faced with the choice between protecting herself, and all she has worked for, or sacrificing everything to save the man she loves.

As the war rages across Europe, a terrible misunderstanding causes the fates of Isabella and Livia to become forever intertwined. And each woman must decide what they’re willing to risk, to protect the ones they hold dear from a brutal enemy.

What does TWG think?

My first piece of advice to anyone wanting to read this is; make sure your mind is free from distractions beforehand as the storyline requires your attention.

My second piece of advice is not to rush the book. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between times and characters, and time is needed to appreciate those parts for what they are.

‘The Italian Girls’ is a WW2 novel set in Italy. I have read several historical fiction novels that have had Italy as their settings, so i was a little bit concerned about whether they would be similarities between the stories aside from the obvious influences of the war. Thankfully, Debbie Rix has a unique voice within her stories and that is what gave this particular book its own stance.

Livia was such an interesting, multi layered character who constantly surprised me. I loved getting to know her personality and finding out about her life. Its safe to say that she was my most favourite character in the novel.

Debbie Rix has written an atmospheric, heart rendering novel that just kept on giving. I love historical fiction and I am delighted to say that ‘The Italian Girls’ really didn’t disappoint.

Buy now.

#TheStolenLetter by Clara Benson @ClaraBooks @bookouture

Many thanks to Bookouture for the tour invite and ARC.

The longer her imprisonment went on, the more she cast her mind back to the stolen hours they had spent together. His love had blown in like an unexpected breath of warm summer air, giving her the promise of life and joy. But now they had been torn apart and she was tormented by the thought that they might never be reunited.
Italy, 1938: When Stella arrives in Florence, it’s love at first sight. She is wowed by the rolling hills dotted with olive trees, the buttermilk villas with shuttered windows and terracotta roofs that glow gloriously in the sunlight. Even the breeze holds the scent of freedom – freedom from England, where the shadow of her past haunted her.

Then there is Ted, an American journalist who is wild and mischievous, with an arrogance bordering on rude. Stella is infuriated by him – but she cannot deny the lure of the danger and excitement he promises.
But there is something dark under the bright surface of this beautiful country, with unspeakable tragedies just around the corner. When the Nazis take control of Italy, Stella and Ted – and whatever dreams the future held for them – are ripped apart. As bombs descend, destroying everything in their wake, there is nothing to do but sit in darkness, praying to see tomorrow.
And it seems that even in Italy, Stella’s past has found her. Somewhere in the winding streets of Florence there is a letter that could change the course of her fate. Unknown to her, it holds a secret with the power to rewrite her past, and everything she has been running away from. But will she live to find it? And with the odds stacked against her, will she ever see Ted again?

What does TWG think?

Novels set during wartime are my most favourite historical fiction to read, and thankfully Clara Benson kept that momentum going.

Set in Italy in 1938, Stella can’t help but be excited for her promising new life in her beautiful new surroundings. However, unfinished business has a way of catching up with people when they expect it to, and soon enough Stella’s new life takes a turn that looks set to be a lot darker than she anticipated.

Stella is such a memorable character to read about and get to know. I felt a lot of empathy towards her because of how she had to mature a lot faster than nature intended her to. I think she surprised herself, and the readers, by flourishing the way that she did. Whilst I applauded her strength and courage, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss for her and the roads she wasnt able to go down because of certain choices that were made.

‘The Stolen Letter’ really is a heartwarming read, one which reminded me so much of author Kathryn Hughes ‘The Letter’! If you’re after a well balanced, detailed and blossoming read, then I highly recommend you get a hold of this.

Buy now.

#TheOrphanHouse @AnnBennett71 @Bookouture #blogtour #review #bloggers

Many thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to take part in Ann Bennett’s blog tour for ‘The Orphan House’. Here is my review:

As she looks at the baby wriggling in her father’s arms, a bolt of recognition goes through her and she takes a step back. And it’s in that moment that she begins to protect her father’s secrets.

1934, Weirfield-on-Thames. Connie Burroughs loves living in the orphanage that her father runs. Exploring its nooks and crannies with her sister, hearing the pounding of a hundred pairs of feet on the wooden stairs, having a father who is doing so much good. But everything changes the day she sees him carrying a newborn baby that he says he found near the broken front gate. A baby she recognises…

Present day. Arriving at her father’s beloved cottage beside the river, Sarah Jennings is hoping for peace and quiet, to escape her difficult divorce. But when she finds her father unwell and hunched over boxes of files on the orphanage where he was abandoned as a child, she decides to investigate it herself.

The only person left alive who lived at Cedar Hall is Connie Burroughs, but Connie sits quietly in her nursing home for a reason. The sewing box under Connie’s bed hides secrets that will change Sarah’s life forever, uncovering a connection between them that has darker consequences than she could ever imagine.

What does TWG think?

With the topic of adoption being at the heart of the book, ‘The Orphan House’ is a very poignant read which will ask to borrow the emotions of anyone who readers it.

I felt that the storyline was full of hope, whilst also keeping the realism of the heartache where adoption is concerned. What I will say though, is that the language used in reference to ‘real’ mothers left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth and i found it to be a little archaic which was a shame.

Aside from that, I enjoyed the history and I was impressed with the authors attention to detail and belief in her characters – a real ‘food for thought’ novel.

Buy now.

#WhenWeWereBrave @Bookouture #blogtour @SuzKelman

Many thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for ‘When We Were Brave’ by Suzanne Kelman. Here is my review:

The face of the woman in the photograph was tilted upwards, as if enjoying the sunshine just for a moment, even as the wreckage of the bombed-out street lay behind her…

1944, Cornwall: Blinded by love, Vivienne Hamilton eloped to Paris with a Nazi prisoner-of-war, never to be seen again. A disgrace to her family, her name would not be mentioned by any of her relatives for over 75 years.

Present day, London: When Sophie discovers a photograph of her great aunt Vivi from World War Two, it throws her into a world of confusion. Because, as she learns about this secret relative, she quickly realises that the photograph doesn’t fit with her family’s story. It shows Vivi leaving an address associated with a spy network in London – a place she had no reason to be – and it is dated right before she disappeared.

Meanwhile Sophie’s own life feels as blasted and bombed as the blitzed city in the photograph she’s looking at. Her beautiful daughter – as full of joy and wild energy as Vivi had apparently once been – is gone; and Sophie’s heart has been left broken into pieces.

Retreating to the family home in rural Cornwall to seek solace from her pain and the feelings of guilt that she could have done more to protect her daughter, Sophie finds herself becoming obsessed with Vivi’s life.

But nothing can prepare Sophie for what she is about to uncover – the story of a woman who risked everything for the person she loved the most; and a secret family history that could be the key to Sophie’s own future.

What does TWG think?

Reading ‘When We Were Brave’ got me thinking about the fact that I have never, ever been to a museum! How?! I really need to change that!

Sophie is a character that you cant help but warm to. She hasn’t had the easiest of lives to date, what with losing two of the most important people in her life. Knowing that her heart wont be easily fixed, Sophie puts all of her energy into trying to find a relative she never knew existed. Life isnt that simple though is it?

Dual timelines, historical fiction and a whole load of intensity, ‘When We Were Brave’ really ticked my boxes and kept me gripped until the very end. The storyline was full of emotion and heartache, yet it was also full of hope and determination. I really couldn’t have asked for more.

Buy now.

#Extract from #CodeNameLise by Larry Loftis @LarryLoftis @MirrorBooks #spy #WWII

I was planning on reading this book but unfortunately I haven’t been able to get a copy yet so i will be sharing an extract from ‘Code Name: Lise’ instead. Many thanks to Mirror Books for having me on the tour!

The year is 1942, and World War II is in full swing.

Odette Sansom decides to follow in her war hero father’s footsteps by becoming an SOE agent to aid Britain and her beloved homeland, France. Five failed attempts and one plane crash later, she finally lands in occupied France to begin her mission.

It is here that she meets her commanding officer Captain Peter Churchill. As they successfully complete mission after mission, Peter and Odette fall in love. All the while, they are being hunted by the cunning German secret police sergeant, Hugo Bleicher, who finally succeeds in capturing them.

They are sent to Paris’s Fresnes prison, and on to concentration camps in Germany, where they are starved, beaten, and tortured. But in the face of despair, they never give up hope, their love for each other, or the whereabouts of their colleagues.

Buy now from Amazon UK

Extract.

THE FOLLOWING DAY, ANXIOUS to see her beloved France and begin
her work, Odette boarded a Whitley bomber. The plane taxied
to the end of the runway and stopped to wait for the landing of an
incoming aircraft. Odette peered through the window and started.
The landing plane was coming straight at them.

There was a violent collision of metal as the plane clipped the
Whitley’s starboard wing. The pilot immediately cut both engines
and the shouting began. Someone opened the door and Odette
tumbled out. Fortunately, the plane didn’t ignite and no one was
injured.

On September 27 a Lysander became available and Odette
again headed to the airfield. As the plane was warming up, however,
Baker Street received a cable stating that the Gestapo had
arrested her contacts; three had been summarily executed, the rest
soon to be.

Odette returned home, and Buckmaster told her to sit tight
while he coordinated other contacts and searched for another plane.
A week later he called and Odette caught a train to Plymouth,
where she was to depart by seaplane for Gibraltar. As she sat in the
Mountbatten Airport, she watched the Catalina bobbing in the water
as high winds jerked its moorings. Sheets of rain followed, and
it appeared that this mission, too, would be jinxed. After several
hours, an officer from the Royal Air Force came in and confirmed
what Odette expected: the weather would not allow departure.

She returned to London.
The War Office scheduled another flight five days later and instructed
Odette to report to Redruth in Cornwall. From there she
was escorted to a hotel and told to get any sleep she could. An attendant
would wake her at 0100, they said, for a 2 a.m. departure
from Newquay Cornwall Airport. Odette drifted off, and promptly
at one someone knocked on her door with a cup of hot tea.
It was raining.

At the airport she was told there was a slight delay: the Whitley’s
starboard engine had a fuel stoppage, someone said, and mechanics
were addressing it while the luggage was stowed. They’d be under
way shortly.

Finally, the craft was cleared and Odette climbed aboard. There
were no seats, she saw, and the fuselage was crammed to the hilt
with cargo. Finding a small spot on the metal floor, she arranged
herself against a wooden crate and tried to stretch her legs. It
wouldn’t be the most comfortable ride, but at least she was finally
leaving.

The engines revved up and they taxied to the runway. Odette sat
back. It had been a long process: the guilt at Somerset, worry about
leaving her children, the training, the injuries, the false starts. Now
at last she could fulfill the duty her grandfather had encouraged so
many years before.

The Whitley lifted off, dipping for a moment and then resuming
its trajectory. Another dip. Odette swung her eyes to the cockpit.
The pilot was trying to gain altitude, but the bomber was responding
by rising and sinking. Up and down, up and down it went, a
sluggish battle with gravity.
The airframe began to shudder.
Cargo creaked as it slid, then a thunderous burst as the starboard
engine went.
Odette braced herself.
They were going to crash.

I would LOVE to visit here! #TheItalianVilla @DanielaSacerdo3 @Bookouture #blogtour #review

Many thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for ‘The Italian Villa’, and for the ARC. Here is my review:

Italy, 1938 – Elisa clings to Leo in the shadow of the Montevino mountains, the call to war ringing in her ears. They hatch a plan to wed in secret before Leo flees to the woods to join the resistance, and vow to find each other again when the war is over. But history has other plans…

Texas, present day – Callie Di Giacomo, a small-town waitress, is still reeling from the discovery that she’s adopted when she arrives in Montevino in search of answers about her real family – the keys to the stunning hillside villa she has just inherited clutched tightly in her hand. In her birthmother’s wardrobe grief-stricken Callie finds a diary belonging to a woman named Elisa Stella, one of Italy’s first ever female doctors, wrapped in pale blue ribbon.

Page by page, Callie is swept away by Elisa’s story, increasingly certain that their lives – and their fates – are somehow connected, and that the truth about her family is hidden somewhere within the crinkled yellow pages. But just when all the pieces look like they are falling into place, a devastating betrayal in the diary unlocks a heart-breaking secret about who Callie’s mother really is. Can Callie, like Elisa, find the light in her darkest moment and use it to spark a new future?

What does TWG think?

There was something just so humbling about the storyline behind ‘The Italian Villa, and the fact that it had some references to real life events really emphasised the importance of family bonds. It was heartbreaking to learn about what Italians went through during the war because of religion. I cant even begin to imagine what families went through during that time, and that’s merely my thoughts after reading about it!

I loved how the storyline was a dual timeline read, switching between the ‘present’ with Callie’s journey as she tries to find out where she came from, and the past via the diary written by Elisa. For a recently turned 21 year old, Callie had such an old head on young shoulders and her actions throughout the story didnt quite seem to match with the way her character was being portrayed. I’m not saying that that is a bad thing, however it left me feeling as though the overall storyline wasnt as seamless as it probably should have been.

‘The Italian Villa’ is such a picturesque, humbling novel which gives Italy the time in the spotlight to shine..and not just because of the beautiful sounding location. Callie’s story was both thought provoking and emotive, and overall I really enjoyed getting to know her and following her on her journey of self discovery.

Buy now.

Is anyone familiar with #TheFoundling? @Stacey_halls @ZaffreBooks @tr4cyf3nt0n #blogtour #review #blogger

Many thanks to Tracy Fenton and Zaffre Books for inviting me to take part in Stacey Halls’ blog tour, and for the stunning ARC. Here is my review as part of the tour:

Two women, bound by a child, a nd a secret that will change everything . . .

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.

Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

What does TWG think?

As ignorant as this may seem, I had absolutely no idea that ‘The Foundling’ got its inspiration from real life. I had no idea that places like that, for children facing abandonment, even existed! It certainly puts things into perspective really, doesnt it?

Being aware of the historical facts behind the novel, the storyline took on a totally different vibe and it came across a lot more darker than if the idea behind the story was fictionalised, does that make sense?

I cannot even begin to imagine what Bess went through when she gave her daughter up, nor can I even begin to imagine what anyone went through during those times where children were concerned. I know that Bess was doing right by her daughter because of the time she lived in and how illegitimate children were not something to be proud of, so to speak, but to give up your child not knowing whether they would live or die, not seeing their milestones etc, all because society frowned upon it, must have been absolutely devastating. I felt that emotion throughout the storyline, and I believed it.

I wouldn’t say that the storyline gave off too much of a mysterious vibe. In fact, I felt as though it could have pushed the boundaries with it a little bit more because, whilst the drama was evident, I still felt as though something was lacking where it was concerned, which was a shame.

That said, I was intrigued at the journey Bess was required to take later on in the story, and I loved how authentic the author made the storyline. Despite my views above, I still found the story to be compelling and quite intricately described. Stacey Halls is a unique storyteller and I am looking forward to reading more from her.

Compelling, dark, highly detailed, and intriguing, ‘The Foundling’ is a heroic and gutsy read which highlights some of the emotive times in history that should never, ever be forgotten.

Buy now.

#AllTheFlowersInParis #WW2 #Paris @SarahJio @OrionBooks @Tr4cyf3nt0n #blogtour #review #historicalfiction

Many thanks to Orion and Tracy Fenton for the blog tour invite and ARC of ‘All The Flowers In Paris’ by Sarah Jio. I am delighted to host day two of the blog tour with a review:

One mother’s desperate hope for survival.

1943: In occupied Paris, Celine creates bespoke bouquets at her father’s flower shop on rue Cler, whilst trying to shield her young daughter from the brutal reality of war. But when an SS officer takes an interest in Celine and her family, all their lives are put in jeopardy…

One woman’s search for the truth…

2009: Caroline wakes in Paris with no memory of her previous life. Hunting for clues to her identity in her apartment on the rue Cler, she discovers a bundle of letters written by a young widow during the Second World War. As she peels back the layers of the past, Caroline finds new purpose – but Celine’s story is unfinished. Desperate to find out the truth, Caroline digs deeper, uncovering dark and dangerous secrets…

Can learning the truth about Celine help Caroline unlock the mystery of her past?

What does TWG think?

What with being set in WW2 AND having a beautiful cover, it was as though Sarah Jio’s novel was calling out to me through the ether.

If you aren’t already aware, historical fiction is one of my most favourite genres to read, and ‘All the Flowers in Paris’ was already ticking my boxes before I had even opened the cover!

Like many historical fiction novels, this particular novel had a dual timeline so, not only was it set in 2009, it was also set in 1943 Paris, during the Second World War. I really did appreciate being able to step back in time to do a little bit of detective work for Caroline, whilst also eagerly awaiting the truth behind the many secrets that had come to light.

I loved the historical element to the storyline, and I felt that that was the star of the entire novel. I did feel as though the fractured past, family secrets and longing for the truth, was a bit predictable in the sense that it’s been covered a lot in historical fiction, and i was a little bit concerned that it would make the overall vibe of the book a bit too ‘samey’.

Nonetheless, I still really enjoyed reading ‘All the Flowers in Paris’, especially the way in which Sarah Jio was able to get under my skin with the war references. A pleasure to read. It was an honour to have been indirectly part of Caroline and Celine’s journey.

Buy now.

I can’t even begin to think about how emotional it would have been to see #TheChildOnPlatformOne @headlinepg @AnneCater @wordkindling #GillThompson

Many thanks to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite, and thank you to Headline for the ARC. I am delighted to host day two of the blog tour for ‘The Child On Platform One’ by Gill Thompson.

Prague 1939. Young mother Eva has a secret from her past. When the Nazis invade, Eva knows the only way to keep her daughter Miriam safe is to send her away – even if it means never seeing her again. But when Eva is taken to a concentration camp, her secret is at risk of being exposed.

In London, Pamela volunteers to help find places for the Jewish children arrived from Europe. Befriending one unclaimed little girl, Pamela brings her home. It is only when her young son enlists in the RAF that Pamela realises how easily her own world could come crashing down.

What does TWG think?

Oh my heart!

I am a huge fan of historical fiction novels. I find the topic of history a very important subject to learn as, without it, our lives wouldn’t have been paved the same.

‘The Child on Platform One’ is emotionally draining in the most poignant and beautiful way. I cannot even begin to fathom how heartbreaking it would have been for Eva, to send her child away to keep her safe. She knew that she may never see her little girl again, yet she still made the selfless decision to put Miriam’s safety first. Pretty much what mothers do anyway, yet the thought of sending your child into the unknown, away from your own safe and loving arms, must have absolutely broken Eva.

Inspired by true events, this book highlights just how devastating life was for Jewish people, and the lengths that they went to to protect themselves and other children around them. Like I said above, I was emotionally drained by the end of this book, yet i had also learnt valuable things from a time where the only valuables people had was their love.

Gill Thompson is an incredible, incredible author who wrote with such power and passion. I really felt the underlying emotion from the author herself, and I appreciated the fact that this wouldn’t have been an easy one to write.

‘The Child On Platform One’ is what historical fiction is all about, as authors become the voice of the people who are no longer able to tell their story. Full of emotion, devastating situations, and powerful historic notions, Thompson’s novel spoke volumes and moved me from deep within. I cannot recommend it enough.

The e-Book is due to be published on the 1st December.

Pre-order now

Stepping back in time now with #TheChildOfAuschwitz @lilygrahambooks @Bookouture

Many thanks to Bookouture for the blog tour invite and ARC, I am delighted to be hosting Lily Graham on her publication day today.

It is 1942 and Eva Adami has boarded a train to Auschwitz. Barely able to breathe due to the press of bodies and exhausted from standing up for two days, she can think only of her longed-for reunion with her husband Michal, who was sent there six months earlier.

But when Eva arrives at Auschwitz, there is no sign of Michal and the stark reality of the camp comes crashing down upon her. As she lies heartbroken and shivering on a thin mattress, her head shaved by rough hands, she hears a whisper. Her bunkmate, Sofie, is reaching out her hand…

As the days pass, the two women learn each other’s hopes and dreams – Eva’s is that she will find Michal alive in this terrible place, and Sofie’s is that she will be reunited with her son Tomas, over the border in an orphanage in Austria. Sofie sees the chance to engineer one last meeting between Eva and Michal and knows she must take it even if means befriending the enemy…

But when Eva realises she is pregnant she fears she has endangered both their lives. The women promise to protect each other’s children, should the worst occur. For they are determined to hold on to the last flower of hope in the shadows and degradation: their precious children, who they pray will live to tell their story when they no longer can.

What does TWG think?

Just like any book which contains the topic of Auschwitz, Lily Graham’s new novel is a story that attempts to put you in the mindset of those who were involved in such a historically devastating event, whilst also keeping the readers entertained due to the fictional elements.

I love the way that Lily Graham’s writing style has taken more of a historical turn, and I am in awe of the fact that the author has chosen such an iconic topic to write about.

The dynamics between the women in this book, namely Eva and Sofie, were both heartwarming and emotive. Their relationship was incredibly iconic in terms of creating memories, and I feel that the author did an incredible job at allowing her readers to have a voice.

The historical elements of the book, in my opinion, were highly captivating and kept me hooked. As someone who is incredibly interested in the topic of Auschwitz, I thought that the author delivered in all aspects of the story and more.

A thoroughly enjoyable, if somewhat emotional, historically insightful and poignant read.

Buy now.