Book Review: The Daughter of Hardie

Happy Sunday! Our weekend has been CRAAAAAZY busy and I haven’t had as much time to read as I would have liked, but I did finish a few great titles last week that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few days between work, parenthood, and life in general.

The Daughter of Hardie is an absolutely enjoyable way to while away a few lazy (winsome) evenings…

Back in July, my friends at Agora Books reached out to ask whether I would like to read the second book in the Hardie Family Series by Anne Melville (pseudonym for Margaret Edith Newman), originally published in the late 80’s/early 90’s. (I reviewed the first title, The House of Hardie, here.) Of course, I enthusiastically accepted the offer and downloaded a complimentary e-galley of The Daughter of Hardie. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm found itself tucked into a dark and dusty corner and I just got around to reading it despite a publication date of August 15th. Yikes!

Here is the publisher’s description, touting this title as “a poignant and moving Victorian saga.

Grace Hardie has grown up in a sweeping estate on the outskirts of Oxford. But her life has been a far cry from a fairytale. Ailing and asthmatic as a child, she never really found her place – not with her brothers, not with any friends – always on the outside. And when tragedy strikes twice in the same day, Grace’s world, and her place in it, is turned upside down. Ungainly and lonely at sixteen, could the bloom of first love be the guiding light she needs? Or is the history of The House of Hardie bound to repeat itself? As class once again threatens to tear the family apart, so too does the Great War: sweeping away this budding romance before it’s had a chance to begin. Through heartbreak and betrayal, longing and loss, Grace Hardie must adapt to this changing world and struggle to find her own way.

My thoughts on this title in a nutshell is that it was even better than the first! The centralised storyline revolving around Grace was charming. As with the previous novel, it is not a quick-paced, fast-moving adventure – it’s more of a slow walk through the woods on a perfect autumn day… or akin to catching up with friends while enjoying a tea on your couch in your comfies. It was wholesome and warm and engaging.

The strong female character(s) once again take shine dominantly, challenging societal norms and the expectations of family. Tragedy and triumph escort you through a lifetime, and you may find yourself annoyed by some of the secondary characters (leads from the first – some questionable decision making arose.) The Daughter of Hardie is an absolutely enjoyable way to while away a few lazy (winsome) evenings and I highly recommend. It’s available now to purchase!

My thanks to the publisher for sharing this delightfully empowering tale via NetGalley.


Book Review: Taking Heart by Rowena Summers

A tribute to family ties, Rowena Summer’s Taking Heart is being re-released this week by Agora Books. It was originally published in 2000. Set in the time between two world wars, it’s a bit of a coming of age story in that we see the Caldwell children on the brink of adulthood, dealing with very adult issues, set on the verge of WWII. It’s touted as “sweeping historical fiction that puts one family’s strength to the
test through illness, war and heartbreak.”

From the publisher:
The Caldwell family’s life is turned upside down when their father announces that the family business, Caldwell Supplies, has been bought out by Preston’s Emporium. With an ailing mother and a young brother to care for, Imogen and her sisters must find a way to save their childhood home and remain in Bristol.

But when a terrible tragedy tears the family apart, the Caldwell girls must forge their own
paths in life. And with the second world war looming over England, their lives begin to change more drastically than they could have imagined. Through love and heartbreak, fear and loss, can the Caldwell girls make it out unscathed? Or will they be swept up in the chaos of the changing times?

My thoughts on this novel are positive. While it took a few chapters to appreciate the family and grow somewhat invested in their plight, by the final page I was eager to start the next title in the series. (Taking Heart is the first title in The Caldwell Girl Series.) I believe the author did a wonderful job of allowing her characters to grow, giving them depth. She included some despicability as well for balance. As it was historical fiction, it ticked that box for me as well and Ms. Summers gracefully projected the fears and at times, ignorance, that would have been felt by young girls in that day. Often while reading the book, I thought of my grandmother who would have been close in age to the eldest daughter – and would have gone through many of the same life experiences.

Rowena Summers
Author Extraordinaire

Rowena Summers is a pseudonym for British writer of romance novels, Jean Saunders. Ms. Saunders was a prolific writer – her list of collective works is impressive in a number of different genres! Rowena Summers was the pseudonym she chose for her historical romances.

Overall, I found Taking Heart to be an entertaining escape to another place and era – a good balance of family, romance, and drama. My thanks to Agora Books for sharing this title with me. One, it was lovely to pick up a real printed piece of literature again and two, it was a well-written piece of historical fiction, something this publisher does well! Watch for this title to hit shelves this Thursday!

Book Review: The House of Hardie by Anne Melville

Every once in a while, you dive into a book that really makes you think the author has a handle on their genre. My contact at Agora Books reached out to me and offered The House of Hardie by Anne Melville as a suggested read in response to some of my requests and reviews to their agency. She was spot on – I loved this book!

Two families from two classes. Four siblings with four dreams. Fate versus destiny...
In this dramatic Victorian saga, can love and passion overcome power and ambition? Not a new question posed in fiction, but done very well in this case.

The House of Hardie was first published in 1987 and is the first in the Hardie Family series. Agora has re-published this title posthumously. Author Anne Melville, in fact a pseudonym for Margaret Edith Newman, born in 1926 in Middlesex.

Before writing, she worked a variety of jobs including teaching in Egypt, editing a children’s magazine in London, and advising the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Twickenham. She published her first novel as Margaret Newman, a mystery novel entitled Murder to Music.

Newman continued publishing novels until her death in 1998, under a variety of pseudonyms and encompassing multiple genres. As Anne Melville, she focused on historical novels. Over the course of her career she published fifty-five novels.

As to the novel itself, it addresses the obstacles of romance between the merchant class and the Ton, the barriers set upon women with unrealistic expectations and limitations, it explores romance and adventure and the ties that bind us to family (and the bonds that are even greater.)

It was a well-written saga of a tale with an engaging plot and well-developed characters – especially the well-rounded, strong female leads. I mentioned in my Instagram post yesterday that it was “Historical fiction done right!”

My thanks to Agora Books for the complimentary copy via Netgalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published: May 2, 2019 (get it in store now!)
Publisher: Agora Books

Book Review: Suki by Beryl Kingston

It seems that all the books I’ve agreed to read & review have all been published in April & May. It wouldn’t be an issue – I can knock out 5 or 6 books a week, easy-peasy – but (and that’s a doozy) – life has been throwing a bit of chaos over the last few weeks and my reading time has been limited. Agh. Also, a bunch of the books have been sagas – not quick little pocket-friendly reads. They’ve had some heft to them. So we do what we can and refuse to let reading become a pressure.

My most recent read was Suki by Beryl Kingston, courtesy of Agora Books via NetGalley. You may recall I was a part of a blog tour for one of Kingston’s other novels, Two Silver Crosses. I have tried to eloquently frame the words I want to use for my review, but can’t quite find the right ones so you are stuck with my meagre offerings.

Suki was originally published in two parts: Only Young in 2000 and Only Human in 2001. It was republished under the current title on April 18, 2019. As with other Agora titles I’ve read, the cover art is highly appealing.

As for the novel itself, I had such mixed feelings the entire time I read it. The title character, Suki, is an unwed wet nurse who finds herself lying to provide a future for her own child. She is deceitful, naive, and yet, likeable. The family she works for is ridiculous and unsympathetic. Her lover is despicable… until you get to know him. There is so much going on in this book and there’s a whole scope of complexities happening in the plot.

The author touches on (unfair) expectations for women, the despicability and normalcy of the slave trade, the absurd habits and entertainments of society in the 18th century. You’ll travel all over England, across the sea, through the West Indies and Africa and back again and in between. You’ll meet characters you love, you hate, you love to hate and hate to love and sometimes it will be all of the above for a single personage depending on where you are in the book. My emotions were engaged – I was angry, I was incredulous, I was disheartened – I was also entwined quite intricately into the sinuous route from first chapter to final sentence.

As mentioned before, Ms. Kingston writes remarkable tales – sagas that take an investment of time. However, they’re very well written with descriptive prose and colourful situations. Well worth the time required when you close the cover for the last time with a possible tear and a heartfelt sigh.

Book Review & Blog Tour: Two Silver Crosses by Beryl Kingston

When a publishing assistant at Agora Books reached out to me in January to ask if I’d be interested in reading the re-release of Two Silver Crosses, originally published in 1992, written by the talented Beryl Kingston and being a part of a Blog Tour, my immediate reply was, “Thanks for the opportunity” and I was, of course, sure to include my mailing address. Thus, the journey of a big beautiful book across the Atlantic into my greedy little hands most welcoming arms. When I finally sat down to immerse myself in this title, I found another historical gem.

Here’s a synopsis of the book straight from the publisher’s press release:

Another historical gem…

‘Nobody is to know where we are. You must forget England. That part of your lives is over.’

Twins Ginny and Emily Holborn have everything they could ever need in their Wolverhampton home: a loving family, a garden to play in and a staff waiting to attend to their every need. Until, one summer day in 1926, they disappear without a trace.

Ten years later, bright-eyed solicitor Charlie Commoner is given his first job: track down the still-missing Holborn twins. Despatched to France, he’s left to unravel a web of infidelity, mystery, and terrifying family secrets.”

My thoughts on the novel are positive. It was not a short tale, nor was it fast moving – it was an actual commitment to read – no casual one-night encounter here. However, it didn’t need to be fast-paced and it would have lost so much vital content if it had been shorter. It wasn’t fluffy at all, but had depths of emotion and detailed environs.

Ms. Kingston does a remarkable job of transporting the reader back in time and place with her vivid, descriptive prose. Her characters are well-developed and thoroughly charming, flawed, and enjoyable – with the exception of her antagonists- they are still well-done, but utterly detestable. The book as a whole is warm and moving – a true tale of overcoming adversity and self-discovery.

I will say that I was surprised (within the first chapter) at the depth and content of the family secrets. They were not what I was expecting and the author did a remarkable job of ensuring that it influenced every part of the book. And, yes, while I know I was reading fiction, I was angered on the twins’ behalf that societal norms dictated such a lack of education and awareness of certain matters and that society itself was so harsh. Very much a sins of the father (mother) theme going on.

Overall, I was thrilled by the novel and impressed anew at how well the author captures a different era. It was enjoyable, emotional, and even educational, I would say. Gripping pre-WW2 fiction done absolutely right.

The Talented Ms. Kingston

Beryl Kingston is the author of 30 novels with over a million copies sold. She has been a writer since she was 7 when she started producing poetry. She was evacuated to Felpham at the start of WWII, igniting an interest in one-time resident poet William Blake which later inspired her novel The Gates of Paradise. She was an English teacher from 1952 until 1985 when she became a full-time writer after her debut novel, Hearts and Farthings, became a bestseller. Kingston continued writing bestsellers for the next 14 years with titles ranging from family sagas to modern stories and historical novels. She currently lives in West Sussex and has three children, five grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren.

If you’d like to catch thoughts on this title from the first Blog Tour stop, head over to Wrong Side of Forty and the second stop at Buttercup Book Review. For the next stops on our tour, visit Books in Their Natural Habitat tomorrow, and both Love Books Group
and Debra’s Book Cafe on the 21st. Pick up a copy of this title for yourself and use the hashtag #TwoSilverCrosses when sharing your thoughts on social media. Also, make sure you tag the publisher – @AgoraBooksLDN on Twitter and Instagram – so they can see and share anything you post!

My thanks again to Agora Books and Beryl Kingston for the opportunity to read this title, share my review, and be a part of the tour.