Category Archives: 3

The Davenports – Krystal Marquis

The Davenports – Krystal Marquis

I was looking for something like The Gilded Age and The Age of Innocence and although this is set at the right time, it wasn’t what I was looking for. That just means I am not the right audience for this novel.

Here’s the blurb …

In 1910, the Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to.

There is Olivia, the beautiful elder Davenport daughter, ready to do her duty by getting married. . . until she meets the charismatic civil rights leader Washington DeWight and sparks fly. The younger daughter, Helen, is more interested in fixing cars than falling in love—unless it’s with her sister’s suitor. Amy-Rose, the childhood friend turned maid to the Davenport sisters, dreams of opening her own business—and marrying the one man she could never be with, Olivia and Helen’s brother, John. But Olivia’s best friend, Ruby, also has her sights set on John Davenport, though she can’t seem to keep his interest . . . until family pressure has her scheming to win his heart, just as someone else wins hers.

The first book in a breathless new series, The Davenports offers a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked, while delivering a totally escapist, swoon-worthy read. Inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family, it’s the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.

This book is about women (black women) finding their way in the world. Realising they don’t have to be only wives and mothers, or do what their parents want them to do. At first, I thought the romance parts were a bit predictable, but then it all gets twisted around and unexpected things happen (no spoilers). To be honest, I was looking for something a bit fluffier – more fashion and more society intrigue.

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A Dangerous Business – Jane Smiley

A Dangerous Business – Jane Smiley

I ordered this one in because I am going to see Jane Smiley at the Perth Writers Festival.

Here’s the blurb …

From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling author of A Thousand Acres: a mystery set in 1850s Gold Rush California, as two young prostitutes—best friends Eliza and Jean—follow a trail of missing girls.

Monterey, 1851. Ever since her husband was killed in a bar fight, Eliza Ripple has been working in a brothel. It seems like a better life, at least at first. The madam, Mrs. Parks, is kind, the men are (relatively) well behaved, and Eliza has attained what few women have: financial security. But when the dead bodies of young women start appearing outside of town, a darkness descends that she can’t resist confronting. Side by side with her friend Jean, and inspired by her reading, especially by Edgar Allan Poe’s detective Dupin, Eliza pieces together an array of clues to try to catch the killer, all the while juggling clients who begin to seem more and more suspicious.

Eliza and Jean are determined not just to survive, but to find their way in a lawless town on the fringes of the Wild West—a bewitching combination of beauty and danger—as what will become the Civil War looms on the horizon. As Mrs. Parks says, “Everyone knows that this is a dangerous business, but between you and me, being a woman is a dangerous business, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise …

I like Jane Smiley and I have read several of her novels. This one is not my favourite, it seemed a bit confused. Is it a detective story? A more literary character driven novel? I did like all of the Poe references.

A review

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Go as a River – Shelley Read

Go as a River – Shelley Read

This one has been floating around in the back of my mind for a while – I am not sure who first mentioned it to me. Perhaps someone from Book Club. I wanted to treat myself to a new book and I selected this one.

Here’s the blurb …

In the spirit of Where the Crawdads Sing, and set amid the beauty and wilderness of the Colorado mountains, an unforgettable and deeply moving story of a young woman who follows her heart Seventeen-year-old Victoria Nash runs the household on her family’s peach farm in the small ranch town of Iola, Colorado—the sole surviving female in a family of troubled men. Wilson Moon is a young drifter with a mysterious past, displaced from his tribal land but determined to live as he chooses. Victoria’s chance encounter with Wil on a street corner profoundly alters both of their young lives, igniting as much passion as danger. When tragedy strikes, Victoria leaves the only life she has ever known, fleeing into the nearby mountains. Taking shelter in a small hut, she struggles to survive in the wilderness, with no clear notion of what her future will be. As the seasons change, she also charts the changes in herself, finding in the natural world the strength and meaning that set her on a quest to regain all that she has lost, even as the Gunnison River rises to submerge her homeland—its ranches, farms, and the beloved peach orchard that has been in her family for generations. Inspired by true events surrounding the destruction of the town of Iola in the 1960s, Go as a River is a story of deeply held love in the midst of hardship and loss, but also of finding courage, resilience, friendship, and finally, home—where least expected. This stunning debut explores what it means to lead your life as if it were a river—gathering and flowing, finding a way forward even when the river is dammed.

I just want to say straight away don’t let the reference to Where the Crawdads Sing put you off (if you like me, did not think very highly of that novel).

It is beautifully written, with lovely nature descriptions. I wasn’t convinced by the plot, but the relationships and setting kept me reading.

A review

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The Fire and the Rose – Robyn Cadwallader

The Fire and The Rose – Robyn Cadwallader

As I have read and enjoyed The Book of Colours, I was keen to read this one. In fact, I got a paper and an audio version from the library. In the end I listened to it.

Here’s the blurb …

England, 1276: Forced to leave her home village, Eleanor moves to Lincoln to work as a housemaid. She’s prickly, independent and stubborn, her prospects blighted by a port-wine birthmark across her face. Unusually for a woman, she has fine skills with ink and quill, and harbours a secret ambition to work as a scribe, a profession closed to women.

Eleanor discovers that Lincoln is a dangerous place, divided by religious prejudice, the Jews frequently the focus of violence and forced to wear a yellow badge. Eleanor falls in love with Asher, a Jewish spicer, who shares her love of books and words, but their relationship is forbidden by law. When Eleanor is pulled into the dark depths of the church’s machinations against Jews and the king issues an edict expelling all Jews from England, Eleanor and Asher are faced with an impossible choice.

Vivid, rich, deep and sensual, The Fire and the Rose is a tender and moving novel about how language, words and books have the power to change and shape lives. Most powerfully, it is also a novel about what it is to be made ‘other’, to be exiled from home and family. But it is also a call to recognise how much we need the other, the one we do not understand, making it a strikingly resonant and powerfully hopeful novel for our times.

I enjoyed it. It reminded me of The Weight of Ink – female scribe plus the Jewish context. It was beautifully written with lots of historical detail; social history, Christian and Jewish history, information about the wool trade and spices, usury and living conditions. Antisemitism is endemic (quite appropriate to out times). The one thing I struggled with was the freedoms Eleanor had; I know she was poor, but to be able to support herself as a scribe and keep her baby seemed unrealistic in those brutal times.

A review

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The Wake Up Call – Beth O’Leary

The Wake Up Call – Beth O’Leary

This was a Christmas present. I have read The No Show (which I thought had an interesting structure) and I have watched the TV adaptation of The Flatshare.

This was similar in type (style/genre) to The Burnout, it is unusual for me to read two similar books simultaneously, but it is just how my library borrowing worked out.

Here’s the blurb …

Two sworn enemies. A failing hotel. One chance to save the season…

It’s the busiest season of the year, and Forest Manor Hotel is quite literally falling apart. So when Izzy and Lucas are given the same shift on the hotel’s front desk, they have no choice but to put their differences aside and see it through.

The hotel won’t stay afloat beyond Christmas without some sort of miracle. But when Izzy returns a guest’s lost wedding ring, the reward convinces management that this might be the way to fix everything. With four rings still sitting in lost property, the race is on for Izzy and Lucas to save their beloved hotel – and their jobs.

As their bitter rivalry turns into something much more complicated, Izzy and Lucas begin to wonder if there’s more at stake here than the hotel’s future. Can the two of them make it through the season with their hearts intact?

I enjoyed this novel – I do like an enemies to lovers romance. And I was intrigued as to how our (Izzy’s) opinion of Lucas was to change. It’s funny with good minor characters (Poor Mandy, Smooth Pedro, etc.). The romance is not the sole focus, there is other themes – grief, family, friendship.

A review

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House of Odysseus – Claire North

House of Odysseus – Claire North

I bought this for a friend’s birthday and then she lent it to me (perfect present!). I have read another Claire North novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which I really enjoyed so I was keen to read this one.

Here’s the blurb …

House of Odysseus is the follow up to award-winning author Claire North’s Ithaca “a powerful, fresh, and unflinching” reimagining (Jennifer Saint) that breathes life into ancient myth and gives voice to the women who stand defiant in a world ruled by ruthless men.

In the palace of Odysseus, a queen lies dreaming . . .

On the isle of Ithaca, queen Penelope maintains a delicate balance of power. Many years ago, her husband Odysseus sailed to war with Troy and never came home. In his absence, Penelope uses all her cunning to keep the peace—a peace that is shattered by the return of Orestes, King of Mycenae, and his sister Elektra.

Orestes’ hands are stained with his mother’s blood. Not so long ago, the son of Agamemnon took Queen Clytemnestra’s life on Ithaca’s sands. Now, wracked with guilt, he grows ever more unhinged. But a king cannot be seen to be weak, and Elektra has brought him to Ithaca to keep him safe from the ambitious men of Mycenae.

Penelope knows destruction will follow in his wake as surely as the furies circle him. His uncle Menelaus, the blood-soaked king of Sparta, hungers for Orestes’ throne—and if he can seize it, no one will be safe from his violent whims.

Trapped between two mad kings, Penelope must find a way to keep her home from being crushed by the machinations of a battle that stretches from Mycenae and Sparta to the summit of Mount Olympus itself. Her only allies are Elektra, desperate to protect her brother, and Helen of Troy, Menelaus’ wife. And watching over them all is the goddess Aphrodite, who has plans of her own.

For me, this novel took a long time to get going. I much preferred the second half to the first half and I think it would make a fabulous movie or TV series. It puts the women front and centre in the Greek myths and shows how they have to be and behave to survive in a patriarchal (not to mention misogynist) world. I did enjoy the female-centredness of this novel (and how it is all resolved is fabulous).

I haven’t read Ithaca and perhaps I would have enjoyed this more having read that. I am also not very familiar with the myths so I would have missed any allusions etc.

A review

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Powder and Patch – Georgette Heyer

Powder and Patch – Georgette Heyer

This is Heyer’s second published novel. Published in 1923 (and again in 1930 minus the last chapter). It set in the Georgian period, so there is lots of mentions of wigs, swords, lace and high heels (for men).

Here’s the blurb …

Cleone Charteris’s exquisite charms have made her the belle of the English countryside. But Cleone yearns for a husband who is refined, aristocratic and who is as skilled with his wit as he is with his dueling pistols…. Everything Philip Jettan is not. As much as she is attracted to the handsome squire, Cleone finds herself dismissing Philip and his rough mannerisms.

With his father’s encouragement, Philip departs for the courts of Paris, determined to acquire the social graces and the airs of the genteel — and convince Cleone that he is the man most suited for her hand. But his transformation may cost him everything, including Cleone….

This was shorter than what I expect from a Georgette Heyer novel. This is definitely not her best work – the hero is delightful, the heroine not so delightful, but there was a witty, wise older lady and lots of mentions of tight coats and stockings with clocks. The things that delight me about Heyer’s novels – the wit, the meticulous research, etc, are present in this novel in an early form. However, I don’t think this novel works for a modern audience – there’s a bit too much ‘women want to be mastered by men’ for my liking. There was also a lot of untranslated french (I have been learning French, so I was fine).

A review.

Next up on my Heyer In Order project is These Old Shades

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The Black Moth – Georgette Heyer

The Black Moth – Georgette Heyer

My summer of Heyer has begun. My plan is to read the novels (just the romance ones) in publication order. First up – The Black Moth (first published in 1921).

Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that there is a still from an Emma adaptation on the cover?

Anyway, this novel is set in the 1750s, so Georgian and not regency. It has many of the characteristics that would later define a Heyer novel; attention to detail, impeccable research, witty dialogue and strong independent heroines. However, she definitely improved with time. This one feels a bit flabby and I think it could do with some editing. Also, I am probably not a fan of Georgian fashion – all of those wigs! Although I do like an embroidered waistcoat and stockings with clocks!

Stocking with clocks (it’s the decorative bit on the ankle)

Image from Fashion History Time Line.

Here is the blurb…

Diana Beauleigh is caught between two men.

Seven long years ago, Jack Carstares, the Earl of Wyncham, sacrificed his honour for his brother and has been in exile ever since.

Returning to England, Jack pretends to be a gentleman named Sir Anthony Ferndale but makes his living in a most ungentlemanly fashion, as a highwayman and a gambler.

When Jack encounters his nemesis, the Duke of Andover, in the midst of kidnapping Diana Beauleigh, the two old enemies come to blows.

Can Jack save the beautiful Diana from rakes, kidnap and ruin.?

This was lots of fun, probably not my favourite Heyer novel, but I am glad I read it. Next up Powder and Patch. I am looking forward to reading These Old Shades where ‘the black moth’is redeemed (although I think he is re-named).

A review.

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In A Thousand Different Ways – Cecelia Ahern

In Thousand Different Ways – Cecelia Ahern

I borrowed the audio book of this one from the library (I am not sure where I first heard of it).

Here’s the blurb …

Finding your way is never a simple journey…

Alice sees the worst in people.

She also sees the best.
She sees a thousand different emotions and knows exactly what everyone around her is feeling.
Every. Single. Day.

But it’s the dark thoughts.
The sadness. The rage.
These are the things she can’t get out of her head. The things that overwhelm her.

Where will the journey to find herself begin?

At first I was fascinated by this story, but by the final third I wondered where it was going and I thought it could definitely do with a bit of editing. The portrayal of the dysfunctional family was very well done, and I enjoyed the relationships with her school friend and Naomi, but once she was settled with Andy, I was ready for it to be over.

A review

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Pardon My French – Rachael

Pardon My French – Rachael Mogan McIntosh

This was a birthday present. I have long harboured the idea of moving to the french countryside. Here’s the blurb …

At the school gate, when she accidentally kissed one new friend on the nose and called another a ‘beautiful man-horse’, Rachael realised that small-town France could hardly be more different to beach-side Australia. The smell of cigarettes replaced the tang of bone-broth and sprouted sourdough, the neighbours sometimes came to blows and under no circumstances would anyone wear activewear in public. Ever.

Muddling through every interaction in terrible French pushed Rachael’s family to their limits. Some days, everybody cried and ate their feelings with almond croissants. But the town of Sommières embraced these ragtag Australians, and the family fell in love with their temporary hometown and its outrageous gossip, cobblestoned beauty and kind, eccentric inhabitants.

Pardon My French is a candid, hilarious love letter to family life and France with three valuable lessons for overcoming adversity: make home a beautiful nest, lean into the tough lessons and look for the comedy in everything.

This book is funny and interesting (and it’s definitely not the Instagram only parts of the year). It also seemed incredibly hard and I am not sure I would have been able to subject my children to it. I am not one who values experience over enjoyment.

There are many laugh out loud moments (usually involving language misunderstandings) and I was interested in the french educational system compared to Australia – two hours for lunch and you can go home – although I guess that just makes the school day longer?

I also enjoyed her musings on parenting and how she and Keith managed the various needs to their three children.

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