My first book for 2019

This is one that I had borrowed from the library before Christmas but hadn’t got around to reading it until last week.  It was a quick read as the story got me hooked in right at the start.

The story is about two women separated by a generation, one living in Manhattan and the other in Australia.

1940. Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier.

2015. Australian curator Fabienne Bissette attends the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her grandmother’s work – one of the world’s leading designers of ready-to-wear clothing. But as Fabienne learns more about her grandmother’s past, she uncovers a story of heartbreak and secrets – and the sacrifices made for love.

You can read a preview of the book here and you may decide then to borrow the book from your library.

Some additions to my Reading Challenge

Never Surrender by Michael Dobbs“10 May 1940. Hitler launches his devastating attack that within days will overrun France, Holland and Belgium, and that will bring Britain to its knees at Dunkirk. Only one man, Winston Churchill, seems capable of standing in his way. Yet Churchill is isolated, mistrusted by many of his colleagues, and tormented by ghosts from his past.

This is the story of those four crucial weeks in which Churchill and Hitler faced each other in a battle of wills. At its end, Hitler was at the gates of Paris and master of all he surveyed. But Churchill had already broken him on the most crucial battlefield of all, the battlefield of the mind.”

I have read several Dobbs books and this is one that I had downloaded to my Kobo many years ago.  I just got around to reading it this time on our travels as that is when I use the Kobo.

An enjoyable read.

Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves

“Shetland: Welcoming. Wild. Remote.

Drawn in by the reputation of the islands, an English family move to the area, eager to give their autistic son a better life.

But when a young nanny’s body is found hanging in the barn of their home, rumours of her affair with the husband begin to spread like wild fire.

With suspicion raining down on the family, DI Jimmy Perez is called in to investigate, knowing that it will mean the return to the islands of his on-off lover and boss Willow Reeves, who will run the case.

Perez is facing the most disturbing investigation of his career. Is he ready for what is to come?

Wild Fire is the eighth, and final book, in Ann Cleeves’ bestselling Shetland series – a major BBC One drama starring Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez.”

I was fortunate to attended this book launching in Shetland while I was there on holiday.  What a wonderful occasion.  The book is a cracker and I am sorry that it is the last of the series.  I look forward to seeing the next series on television.  They were filming that series while we were in Shetland. As a bonus I was able to purchase a limited edition of Wild Fire Gin while there. Lucky me.




My latest reading is varied

I have just finished reading A Working Class Boy by Jimmy Barnes. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect in this book but I was certainly surprised by the amount of violence he endured as a child.  He is someone who has shown remarkable resilience to overcome all that was thrown at him during his childhood.

Working Class Boy is a powerful reflection on a traumatic and violent childhood, which fuelled the excess and recklessness that would define, but almost destroy, the rock’n’roll legend. This is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. It is a memoir burning with the frustration and frenetic energy of teenage sex, drugs, violence and ambition for more than what you have.

I hadn’t realised when I borrowed the book that it was only the story of his childhood and I kept thinking that he would soon get to when he started his musical career. . . .that didn’t happen.  This book is solely the story of his childhood and I will now need to read Working Class Man, the second instalment of his autobiography, when it is released in October 2017, to read about his musical career.

The second book I read was Honolulu by Alan Brennert. I bought this book at the airport in Honolulu as I had finished my previous book while in Hawaii.

Honolulu is the rich, unforgettable story of a young “picture bride” who journeys to Hawaii in 1914 in search of a better life.

Instead of the affluent young husband and chance at an education that she has been promised, she is quickly married off to a poor, embittered laborer who takes his frustrations out on his new wife. Renaming herself Jin, she makes her own way in this strange land, finding both opportunity and prejudice. With the help of three of her fellow picture brides, Jin prospers along with her adopted city, now growing from a small territorial capital into the great multicultural city it is today.  But paradise has its dark side, whether it’s the daily struggle for survival in Honolulu’s tenements, or a crime that will become the most infamous in the islands’ history…

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction about mail-order-brides from Korea in the 1920’s. I loved the fact that many aspects of the story were based on actual events that had taken place in Honolulu.  This book certainly gave me an insight into the background of how Honolulu is as it is today.  It was also pleasing to be able to recognise places named in the novel.

I have just bought Molokai which was the first Hawaii book by this author.  I will let you know how I like it when I am finished.

Tuesday travels. . . . Culross, Fife

My sister has often spoken of Culross and she has visited the village when she has travelled to Scotland but I have not managed to visit the place until this last trip when we made a special detour so that I could see the village.

Culross1The Royal Burgh of Culross is the best preserved example of a 17th and 18th century Scottish town. There are cobbled streets with many historic buildings and the village looks out onto the Firth of Forth.  The village has been used in the filming of the series Outlander.

The Outlander series is based on the books by Diana Gabaldon The books are historical fiction mixed with time travel, adventure etc. I will need to find a copy of the first book in the series and make time to read it.  As an aside, I have so many books on my bookshelves waiting to be read I will need to jump this one up the list when I find it.

Click on the photos to see a larger version. The name Culross is pronounced Coo-ross and well worth a visit as it is like a step back in time.

This is another bodice ripper

When I bought Duchess by Night I also bought When the Duke Returns.  I think the owner of the secondhand bookshop recommended them as part of a series.  I am glad I only bought two as though they were enjoyable light reads they were not really my style.  Something easy for reading on a plane journey.  No great plot to get your mind around no in depth characters.  Having said that I can still say I enjoyed them.

When the Duke ReturnsFrom the book cover:

For the Duke of Cosway it was a marriage of convenience, for his bride it was anything but.  Isidore has waited many, long, frustrating years for her mysterious husband to come back from exploring the world.  They were married by proxy when she was just a child and she yearns to actually meet the duke himself.

Until he returns.

Cosway is not what she expected.  He won’t powder his hair, has little time for cravats and seems frightfully keen in running around the countryside in nothing but short trousers.  Even worse, he takes one look at Isidore and offers an annulment.

But Isidore will not give up her claim to the title – or the duke himself – without a fight. And while she tries to establish whether he is worth sacrificing her virtue and dignity for, the duke begins to discover that there may be more adventures in marriage than in all of the rest of the world.

You can find out more about this series here.

Duchess series


Do you call this a bodice ripper?

I have just finished a book that was bought second-hand last year when I was reading historical fiction, Duchess by Night by Eloisa James. I didn’t get around to reading it so it has been sitting on the ‘to be read’ shelf. This book falls into the historical fiction genre but it is more what I would call a romantic adventure!  I was reminded of Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters while reading this book.

duchess-by-night From the cover:

“She had to do something. Change her life!  Start thinking about. . . .pleasure”

Harriet, the Duchess of Berrow, is finally seeking some excitement, after a lifetime as a wallflower.  And where better to begin than a the house of one of the most disreputable men in the country, Lord Strange?

The high stakes games of lust and chance that rule Strange’s household, mean, however, that even crossing the threshold could entirely ruin her reputation.  So Harriet decides to swap her hoops and corsets for a pair of breeches and transforms herself into a young male relative of the Duke of Villiers.

Before she knows it she’s writing bawdy missives on behalf of a young actress, not to mention winning card games played by the most powrful men in England, and having the time of her life.

But when she starts attracting male attention, Harriet must decide whether to stay in her disguise . . .or to reveal that she’s really a duchess by night


This book was pure escapism.  I enjoyed it thoroughly as it has been a long time since I read anything similar. I think this book cover, although I prefer the present one, illustrates what lies within.  You can find more about Eloisa James here.


Bodice ripper: A couple of definitions from the Urban Dictionary for you

:A book labelled historical romance that is really just written porn for middle aged women.


:A romantic but risque novel aimed at a female audience: refers to the buxom women who decorate the cover, along with a dark handsome and wealthy male.

You will need to read Duchess by Night to decide for yourself.