Here’s the next batch of my mini-reviews on books recommended to me by fellow members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I asked them for the ‘book of their heart.’ All are romances, but oh so different in subject, range, tone, pace and language.
Jean Fullerton very kindly sent me a signed copy of her fabulous book A Glimpse at Happiness. It certainly brought me a lot of happiness! Not only was I rooting for heroine Josie and both terrified and exhilarated by the evil Tugman family, I also learnt a hell of a lot about the Victorian East End. Full of authentic detail, this was a complex romantic story with strong dilemmas and personal conflict. Josie is a loving sister and daughter, but nobody could accuse her of being soppy. The deft touch of the author cuts through sentimentality to make the characters warm and genuine and the setting so realistic. Loved it!
Sophia’s Secret which author Susanna Kearsley also signed with a personal message, took me to Slains Castle, north of Aberdeen, the ancestral seat of the Hays of Erroll. Two stories, one narrated in the early eighteenth century and written down by Sophia’s twenty-first century descendant, Carrie, intertwine in a rich, atmospheric story of the 1708 Jacobite conspiracy. Carrie’s modern love story is described in clever, but never heavy detail. The two pairs of lovers (or perhaps it’s the same pair?) got my sympathy from the very beginning, with Sophia/Carrie smart and intelligent and Moray/Graham a clever, determined and constant hero. If you love a cracking story, evocative settings with history, this is for you.
With only a sketchy idea of Lancashire and between the wars settlement in Australia, I approached Anna Jacobs’ Freedom’s Land with a open mind. I was plunged straight into Norah’s story, at the tragic point of her father’s death. Within a few pages, I was in there with Norah despairing how she/we would get out of it. A lovely heroine: resilient, willing to work hard, but warm and loving. More than anything, she cares. Making a marriage of convenience with Andrew so that they can take up a government scheme of free land and farm in Australia, she comes to respect and love him. A happy ending, sure, but a story of how ordinary people face and overcome obstacles that most of us would blench at. Never weighted down by being over-descriptive, the prose is deceptively simple, but paints a comprehensive picture. A riveting read.
I have one or two more to read, so watch this space…