Guest Review – Her Mother’s Secret – Natasha Lester

Her Mother’s Secret

Natasha Lester

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733634659

 

Description:

1918, England. Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora’s life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father’s chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly. Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father’s life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City. On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . . In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she’s a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous.

1939, New York City. Everett’s daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalized like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it?

HER MOTHER’S SECRET is the story of a brave young woman chasing a dream in the face of society’s disapproval.

 

Brenda’s Review:

The elation of everyone around in Leonora East’s small village of Sutton Veny was high – the war was over; it was Armistice Day 1918 in England and the celebrations continued long into the afternoon. But joy soon turned to despair as Spanish Flu struck viciously – Leo spent her time dispensing medicine from her father’s chemist shop, praying that it would help. Late in the night, as she wearily entered the home where her father was waiting, she was devastated to find him struggling to breathe.

After his death, a grieving Leo decided she could no longer remain in the country. Her desire to create cosmetics that women the world over would want to wear had her sailing to New York City with her best friend Joan. Leo had made herself a deep rich red lipstick in her father’s chemist shop – but the shock from the self-righteous at the scandal she was causing by wearing it only caused Leo’s determination to strengthen. Meeting up with Everett Forsyth on the journey was fortuitous; he was one of the department store Forsyths from London and he was going to build another in Manhattan. His interest in Leo’s cosmetics gave her some confidence…

1939, twenty years later, Leo had been through much – a widow and continuing to work hard, she always looked to the future. Meantime, Everett’s nineteen year old daughter Alice was a devoted and extremely promising ballerina. But the letter Alice received one day at the dance studio was to change her life in a most unexpected way. Why though were her parents so angry? Confusion filled her mind – what could she do?

Her Mother’s Secret by Aussie author Natasha Lester is brilliant! The strength of character of Leo is phenomenal – the way women were treated in the early part of the century; the heartache and loneliness as she was ostracised by the elite of society – and she still held her head high! The author has historical fiction down to a fine art; her meticulous research is obvious. I thoroughly enjoyed Her Mother’s Secret, reading it in a matter of hours. A highly recommended 5 star read.

 

Post Script – The Scandalous Life of Sacha Torte – Lesley Truffle

the-scandalous-life-of-sasha-torte

The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte

Lesley Truffle

HarperCollins Publishing Australia

ISBN: 9781460751442

 

Description:

Revenge, redemption … and pastry. The witty new novel from the author of Hotel du Barry, for fans of Jonas Jonasson.

 

In the winter of 1912 on the wild West Coast of Tasmania, Wolfftown’s most notorious heiress and murderess, Sasha Torte, tells the tale of her own spectacular downfall.

 

Forsaken by her parents and raised by criminals and reprobates, Sasha becomes a world-famous pastry chef at the tender age of seventeen. Entanglement with the disreputable Dasher brothers leads to love, but also to a dangerous addiction.

 

Behind bars in Wolfftown’s gaol, Sasha sips premium champagne as she recalls a life of seduction, betrayal, ghosts, opium and an indiscreet quantity of confectionary – and plots her escape.

 

The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte: revenge, redemption and pastry, is a novel of dastardly deeds, intrepid protagonists, dark villains, wild gangs, luxurious hotels … and murder.

 

My View:

A captivating/fun/ribald/honest read…and educational 🙂

 

Open the pages and catch a glimpse of colonial Australia, in particular the Wild West coast of Tasmania to a narrative set in the fictional township of Wolfftown.  The reader is privy to the extreme vagaries of the rich and the devastatingly poor – the contrast is extreme.  Those familiar with the history of the Australian penal settlements and mores of the time will be aware of the huge role alcohol played in society – indeed it was even deemed currency – actual as payment for labour and social currency – snobbery and elitism abounded.

 

Thus we have the perfect introduction to a new (to me) description that appeared in this witty narrative – crapulous! What a fantastic word! Now at this point I must admit to you that I read along thinking…hmm…a little of the authors own colloquialism here…however at some stage in my reading of this novel I decided to see if such a word did exist – and to my surprise it does! Crapulous – what a fabulous word!

Word Origin and History for crapulous

adj.

 

1530s, “sick from too much drinking,” from Latin crapula, from Greek kraipale “hangover, drunken headache, nausea from debauching.” The Romans used it for drunkenness itself. English has used it in both senses. Related: Crapulously; crapulousness.” Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

 

What a perfect description – concisely and succinctly describes some of the themes covered in this novel – drunkenness, debauchery but …alcohol and addictive behaviours provide both the backdrop and the impetus for so much that happens in this novel – destructive behaviour that time has not changed. Truffle touches on issues of mental health, family violence and all manner of social issues directly related to crapulous and addictive behaviours.

Yet this is not a depressing book – written with wit and humour and with an outlandish cast of fops and conceited, talented and not so talented, corrupt and powerful individuals juxtaposed against a cast of world weary chancers and survivors… and a wonderful wonderful gutsy determined (in everything) talented, liberal, liberated and resourceful female protagonist – this is a riotous read.

 

At is core it is a mystery – the narrative introduces Sasha – who has been convicted of murder and who fears – like so many do – that she is turning into her mother (p. 11). The hook gleams – we want to know the what, why and how she is guilty of murder…and so the intriguing and entertaining story begins.  Sasha is incarcerated and we hear (via the memoir she is writing ) her history, a great device for allowing the reader to travel back in time to the beginning of her story and the prefect way to understand Sasha’s spectacular rise and fall and rise again…  but no spoilers here – you must read this yourself.

 

A little history, a little romance, a lot of crapulous behaviour, sex, alcohol, drugs, murder, cakes, baking and sugar syrup! A delightful read.

 

 

 

 

 

Australian Romance Writers Are World Class

Australia has world class romance writers: rural romance writers/contemporary romance writers/cosy romance writers/cozy crime fiction writers/romantic suspense writers,romantic comedy writers, historical romance writers…writers of women’s fiction and life lit, have I missed any one out? If romance is your go to read then enter to win a copy of best selling author Belinda Alexandra’s Southern Ruby.   In the comments section of this post tell me what Belinda is referring to when she asks “…is this naughty or nice?”  Thanks once again to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for providing this generous giveaway.

 

****Giveaway open to Australian residents only. Giveaway ends midnight 28 January 2017.

Southern Ruby cover imageDescription:

Forbidden love. Family secrets. A twist of fate. The stunning new generational saga from Belinda Alexandra, bestselling author of TUSCAN ROSE.

In New Orleans – the city of genteel old houses and ancient oak trees covered in Spanish moss, of seductive night life, of Creole culture, voodoo and jazz – two women separated by time and tragedy will find each other at last.
Amanda, orphaned as a child and suffering the loss of her beloved grandmother, has left Sydney in search of a family she never knew.
Ruby, constrained by the expectations of society and class, is carrying a lifetime of secrets. Amanda’s arrival sparks revelations long buried: a double life, a forbidden love, and a loss that cannot be forgotten.
Southern Ruby is a sweeping story of love, passion, family and honour. Alternating in time between the 1950s and the eve of Hurricane Katrina, it is also a tribute to a city heady with mystery, music, and superstition, which has borne the tumults of race and class and the fury of nature, but has never given up hope.

 

EDIT** News just in Belinda Alexandra has been voted #50 in Booktopia’s Australia’s favourite author of 2017  http://www.booktopia.com.au/australia-s-favourite-author/promo1140.html

 

What’s your Favourite Cake, Dessert or Pastry?

My first giveaway in my Australia Day, Aussie Author Giveaway!

Share with me in the comments section your favourite dessert/pastry/cake and be in the running to win a copy of the fun, decadent, riotous, witty and delicious historical romp set in the colonial days of  Tasmania “The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte.” by Lesley Truffle ( review coming soon)   **Giveaway open to Australian residents only. Giveaway ends  midnight 28 January 2017. Winner will be randomly selected.

the-scandalous-life-of-sasha-torte

 

Description:

A wild romp of dastardly deeds, intrepid protagonists, dark villains, wild gangs, luxurious hotels…and mouth watering treats.

Revenge, redemption … and pastry. The witty new novel from the author of Hotel du Barry, for fans of Jonas Jonasson.

In the winter of 1912 on the wild West Coast of Tasmania, Wolfftown’s most notorious heiress and murderess, Sasha Torte, tells the tale of her own spectacular downfall.

Forsaken by her parents and raised by criminals and reprobates, Sasha becomes a world-famous pastry chef at the tender age of seventeen. Entanglement with the disreputable Dasher brothers leads to love, but also to a dangerous addiction.

Behind bars in Wolfftown’s gaol, Sasha sips premium champagne as she recalls a life of seduction, betrayal, ghosts, opium and an indiscreet quantity of confectionary – and plots her escape.

The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte: revenge, redemption and pastry, is a novel of dastardly deeds, intrepid protagonists, dark villains, wild gangs, luxurious hotels … and murder.

 

 About Lesley Truffle:

London-born Australian Lesley Truffle has travelled extensively and worked in London and Japan. At present she’s living in a garret in Melbourne. She’s worked as a secondary teacher, photographer, hotel maid, fringe actor and in art galleries, bars, nightclubs and other jobs too ghastly to mention.

While exhibiting her art photography in Melbourne galleries Lesley realised she wanted to create imaginary stories and interior monologues, and returned to writing.

Her fiction piece ‘A Man of Fashion’ was published in ‘Scarlet Stiletto:The Second Cut’ in 2011, and ‘Memoir of a Trollop’ was performed by Baggage Productions: Madwomen Monologues in 2013. ‘Memoir of a Trollop’ will be performed again as part of the Madwomen Monologues retrospective in November 2016.

Lesley’s first novel, ‘Hotel du Barry’ was published in 2016 and ‘The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte’ was published by Harper Collins January 23 2017.

 

**Thanks to HarperCollinsPublishers Australia and Lesley Truffle for generously providing this book for the giveaway.

 

 

Best Romance/Life Lit/Womens Lit/Rural Fiction of 2016

This is genre that I don’t not read a huge amount of – as readers of my blog my have gathered I am not fond of the bodice ripper style of romance – where the  passive woman must be rescued by arrogant rich and possessive “lord” or the like.  I prefer my romance to be more realistic, to have some social commentary, to have strong women and certainly not gratuitous sex scenes.

 

So it may surprise you ( it did me) that I am one of the top four reviewers of romance in the Australian Women Writers Challenge (Brenda is by far the biggest reviewer). Here are my top six romance/life lit/rural romance/women’s literature reads of 2016. All  are so different in style and narrative, all are equally as good to read and will resonate with many women’s life experiences.

 

Journey's End

Journey’s End

Jennifer Scoullar

I adore Jennifer Scoullar’s writing – she expertly  weaves contemporary issues into her narratives-  the natural environment, conservation and re -wilding among her themes ( and a little romance).

 

Other Side of the SeasonThe Other Side of the Season

Jenn J McLeod

Jenn J McLeod weaves wonderful tales that are set in regional Australia. Jenn’s latest book is complex with sensitively written contemporary issues regarding identity, family, truth and abuse of children in care, gently woven into the multi layered narrative. Jenn’s gentle approach lets readers enjoy the narrative and mysteries absorbing the issues without schoolmarmish lessons being given.

 

the-drifter

The Drifter

Anthea Hodgson

Anthea Hodgson struck gold with her first release: The Drifter.  Anthea reflects on survivors guilt in a moving, fast paced most enjoyable coming of age read that ticks all the boxes. The big questions are asked here – what makes a good life, a good death?

 

love-at-first-flight

Love at First Flight

Tess Woods

Tess Woods has written an evocative narrative that will resonate with many  –   a story of spousal love, family, wistfulness, lust, consequences and redemption.   A very contemporary story full of realistic characters and hard decisions.

Precious Things

Precious Things

Kelly Doust

Intelligent, engaging, and brilliantly observational of women’s lives and rights at various points in history; all individual stories connected by their relationship to one piece of extraordinary cloth – very well plotted and visually stunning, intelligently written – excellent. Not the light fluffy read I thought I was getting 🙂

the-rarest-thing

The Rarest Thing

Deborah O’Brien

And last but by no means least – For me the overarching theme in this narrative is one of the feminists’ struggle for equal opportunities in education, the workplace and …life and relationships in 1960’s and beyond. O’Brien exposes some heartbreaking criminal behaviour in this novel (no spoilers here)…sadly behaviours like this have not been eliminated in our so called enlightened age. A multilayered drama – with romance.

*Reflecting on my romance reads of 2016 – I surprised myself by just how many I had indeed read! Not one of the above is stylistically or thematically similar – what a great collection!

 

 

Post Script – Beyond The Orchard – Anna Romer – Guest Reviewer

beyond-the-orchard

Beyond the Orchard

Anna Romer

Simon & Schuster AU

ISBN: 9781925184426

 

Description:

A haunting story of yearning, love and betrayal from the bestselling author of Thornwood House

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.

Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.

Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.

Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.

And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall … and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.

 

Brenda’s Review:

When Lucy Briar received the letter from her grandfather she knew she needed to return home to find answers. Alex, her fiancé remained in London and when Lucy saw how happy her father was on her return, she was sorry it had been five years since she’d been home. Melbourne was where her heart was; it was where she’d grown up and where her friends were. But the event of five years previously which had caused her to flee to London hadn’t been resolved…

The sudden shock of her grandfather’s passing then her father’s bad fall where he was hospitalised had her heart in her throat. But when her dad asked Lucy to go to Bitterwood, the home of her grandfather, the place where her father was born and also a place of bad memories for her, Lucy wanted to refuse. But she couldn’t. The bitterness and anger that had stood between her grandfather Edwin, and her father Ron all those years needed resolution. And though Edwin was gone, Lucy wanted to find the answers to her dad’s estrangement of his father.

With her cat Basil by her side, and Morgan wanting to help, Lucy began to sort out Edwin’s life. But what she found was more confusion – the mystery surrounding the early family life in 1931 was deep. Photographs from that long ago time of faces Lucy didn’t recognise made her more determined to discover the truth. But would there be peace and resolution at the end of her search? The secrets which had surrounded Edwin’s life were there to be found…

Beyond the Orchard is another atmospheric and emotional read by Aussie author Anna Romer. The tragedy of the past; the heartbreak and fragility of a love built on secrets and betrayal – this novel has amazing depth and character. I’ve loved this author’s past work and this one didn’t disappoint. A very highly recommended 4.5 star read from me.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this copy to read in exchange for my honest review.

Post Script: The Chocolate Tin – Fiona McIntosh

Please welcome Brenda –   0ne of my new guest reviewers. 

the-chocolate-tin

 The Chocolate Tin

Fiona McIntosh

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9780143797067

 

Description:

The highly anticipated, sensuous new blockbuster by the beloved, bestselling author of The Perfumer’s Secret.

Alexandra Frobisher is a modern-thinking woman with hopes of a career in England’s famous chocolate-making town of York. She has received several proposals of marriage, although none of them promises that elusive extra – love.

Matthew Britten-Jones is a man of charm and strong social standing. He impresses Alex and her parents with his wit and intelligence, but would an amicable union be enough for a fulfilling life together?

At the end of the war, Captain Harry Blakeney discovers a dead soldier in a trench in France. In the man’s possession is a secret love note, tucked inside a tin of chocolate that had been sent to the soldiers as a gift from the people back home.

In pursuit of the author of this mysterious message, Harry travels to Rowntree’s chocolate factory in England’s north, where his life becomes inextricably bound with Alexandra and Matthew’s. Only together will they be able to unlock secrets of the past and offer each other the greatest gift for the future.

From the battlefields of northern France to the medieval city of York, this is a heartbreaking tale about a triangle of love in all its forms and a story about the bittersweet taste of life . . . and of chocolate.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Alexandra Frobisher was frustrated by her mother’s constant harping on her lack of a husband – with the war on there was a small respite as the three men who had been chosen as prospective husbands were at the front. But Alex knew she didn’t have long – she shuddered at the thought. Alex’s greatest wish was to work in the Rowntree chocolate factory in her home town of York; to learn the craft and make it her career. But 1915 was a time when young women of means didn’t work – marrying well and supplying grandchildren while supporting their husbands was what was expected. Alex desperately wanted more from her life.

When Matthew Britten-Jones entered her life with a proposal which would suit them both, Alex was tempted. A witty and delightful man, Matthew knew how to make Alex laugh; he had her parents eating out of his hands – but was it enough? Alex knew she didn’t love him, and he, though affectionate, didn’t love her either. But the solution would solve Alex’s dilemma; her future would be assured.

Captain Harry Blakeney returned from the war a changed man. He was determined to visit the Rowntree chocolate factory in York – his quest was to discover the identity of the author of a note of love he’d discovered while recovering bodies in France. The chocolate tin which had been sent to soldiers on the front in 1915 as a Christmas parcel had housed the note; in Harry’s search for the sweetheart of the lost soldier he met up with Alex and Matthew. But what would happen when their lives became bound in an inconceivable way and long buried secrets rose to the surface?

The Chocolate Tin by Aussie author Fiona McIntosh is an emotional and haunting narrative which had me reaching for tissues a few times. Blending mystery, intrigue and heartbreak with the historical romance of the times, the author’s ability to tell the story amid the depth of her research makes The Chocolate Tin an authentic and delightful read. A very highly recommended 5 star read from me.

With thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for this copy to read in exchange for my honest review.